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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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