Dow Focused on Payroll Figures

LONDON -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) is likely to react strongly to April's nonfarm payroll figures, due to be published one hour before the market opens.

A small improvement is expected, with a consensus forecast of 163,000 -- up from 120,000 in March, but not enough to substantially reduce unemployment. The latest unemployment rate will also be published at 8:30 a.m. EDT and is expected to remain unchanged at 8.2%.

In company news, strong earnings from LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD  ) are expected to boost general market activity, with the website's shares up strongly in pre-market trading.

Last night LinkedIn reported first-quarter sales of $189 million and net income of $5 million, up from $2 million in the first quarter of 2011.

AIG (NYSE: AIG  ) could also feature strongly today, following post-close results that showed an after-tax operating income of $2.1 billion for Q1  -- a 48% improvement on the first quarter of 2011.

Across the Atlantic, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE  ) was dragged lower by falling mining shares in morning trading, triggered in part by a downgraded GDP growth forecast from the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Most other European indexes also fell, thanks to grim news from the eurozone. The eurozone service-sector purchasing managers index for April came in at 46.9, down from 49.1 in March, suggesting a strong contraction in the eurozone service sector. Eurozone retail figures managed a small increase, but not enough to lift the markets.

Elsewhere, there was a strong showing from Royal Bank of Scotland. RBS, which is 82% owned by the U.K. government, released better-than-feared figures this morning. Highlights included a Q1 operating profit of 1.2 billion pounds and a cautious return to dividend payments. However, adjustments to the value of the bank's outstanding debts still meant a 1.4 billion pound pretax loss was registered.

Given the bank's past troubles, RBS was never going to be the U.K. blue chip that attracted billionaire Warren Buffett to invest more than $1 billion. The legendary investor recently bought a famous British name with global expansion potential -- and you can discover the identity of the company and the price he paid in this latest free report.

The results of Buffett's own Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B  ) corporation are also due to be published today and will be eagerly awaited by investors. Analysts are expecting a profit improvement on last year, thanks to an absence of major disaster losses in Berkshire's insurance divisions.

News of Facebook's proposed IPO valuation of $28 to $35 per share is also bound to attract comment and may impact trading of other major internet companies.

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Roland Head owns no shares of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of LinkedIn and Berkshire Hathaway. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Berkshire Hathaway and LinkedIn. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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