European shares steadied on Friday after recent sharp losses and the euro faced fresh pressure following another 16-month dollar low as investors awaited key US jobs data amid rising eurozone tensions.
"The real focus for the financial markets today is of course on the key labour market report at 1330 GMT," said Derek Halpenny, European Head of Global Currency Research at The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.
Ahead of the release, eurozone dangers remained firmly in focus as IMF chief Christine Lagarde noted that the crisis was taking a toll on Africa and the rest of the world.
She however added during a visit to South Africa that the single currency was unlikely to disappear in 2012. Her prediction came ahead of official data showing eurozone unemployment still at a record high 10.3 percent in November.
In European midday trading, London's FTSE 100 index edged up 0.10 percent to 5,629.80 points, Frankfurt's DAX 30 dipped 0.04 percent to 6,093.60 points and in Paris the CAC 40 won 0.38 percent to 3,156.87.
Madrid gained 0.42 percent and Milan fell 0.15 percent, a day after both indices plunged around 3.0 percent on fears that indebted Italy and Spain may need financial bailouts.
The euro meanwhile hit 16-month lows for a second day running Friday, striking $1.2764, or the lowest level since September 2010, in Asian trading hours.
In later London deals, the euro recovered slightly to stand at $1.2784. The common unit also pulled back from a 10-year low against the yen reached on Thursday.
"Will 2012 be the end of the euro? My answer is, I don't think so," Lagarde told a press conference in South Africa. "The currency itself is not likely to vanish or disappear in 2012."
"Will Greece quit the euro zone in 2012? The euro partners have affirmed, reaffirmed their determination. We can only support that," she said.
Her predictions came as the International Monetary Fund prepared to release a report around January 25 that is likely to lower its global growth forecast.
"We should be prepared for a 2012 that will not be an easy journey, but one of effort and focus (regarding) the European crisis and its resolution," Lagarde said.
Official US job numbers for December were meanwhile due on Friday amid hopes raised by a sizzling increase in private hiring and signs that the world's biggest economy is picking up steam.
The Labor Department will release figures on job creation and unemployment last month, and with the jobless rate at 8.6 percent, many are hoping the data will confirm the steady improvement of the past two months.
Employers' reluctance to hire in the face of tepid growth since the recession ended in June 2009 has made jobs creation a key issue in this year's presidential election race.
Data published Thursday showed private hiring soared last month to the highest level in a year and fewer people were filing unemployment claims, solidifying a months-long decline.
"If, as expected, we do get a better-than-predicted December jobs report and the previous months' numbers are also revised upward, the perception will be that we may be turning the corner," said Joel Naroff at Naroff Economic Advisors.
"That would be a touch premature as we really don’t know how bad the European downturn will be," he said.