Asian stocks mostly up ahead of US jobs data


HONG KONG: Asian markets were mostly higher on Friday as traders awaited the release of US jobs data, while Tokyo took a hit as the dollar fell a day after breaking through the 100-yen level.

The gains came after another positive lead from Wall Street, with economists expecting a healthy rise in employment will give the US Federal Reserve another reason to begin winding down its huge stimulus program.

But Tokyo tumbled 1.45 percent, or 204.01 points to 13,860.81, with speculation that the capital would fail in its bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games adding to downward pressure.

Hong Kong rose 0.10 percent, or 23.25 points to 22,621.22, and Shanghai climbed 0.83 percent, adding 17.56 points to 2,139.99.

Sydney was flat, edging up 2.5 points to end at 5,145, and Seoul finished 0.19 percent, or 3.66 points, up at 1,955.31.

Profit-taking also capped buying at the end of a strong week for global markets fueled by healthy manufacturing data from China, Europe and the United States.

Analysts said that Friday’s US non-farm payrolls data will likely play a big role in the Fed’s next move.

While a strong figure would provide more evidence the world’s top economy is on the road to recovery, it would also signal the beginning of the end of the Fed’s year-old bond-buying scheme, which has fueled an investment drive in emerging economies.

Developing nations that benefited from the US central bank’s largesse—which led to record low interest rates at home—have seen their stock markets and currencies plummet in recent weeks as foreigners repatriate their cash.

“Tonight’s jobs report is highly crucial in helping the US Federal Reserve decide whether to taper stimulus or not at [its next policy meeting]later this month,” said Tim Radford, global analyst at trading firm Rivkin.

“The lack of direction in US markets overnight highlighted the cautious nature of investors . . . with lingering concerns over Syria lurking in the background also weighing,” he told Dow Jones Newswires.

The Dow edged up 0.04 percent, the S&P 500 gained 0.12 percent, and the Nasdaq put on 0.27 percent.

Radford added: “Regardless of the [US jobs] result . . . there should be plenty of confusion in the market following the data release.”

Tokyo, which had gained about 5 percent this week, slipped as the yen rebounded against the dollar.

The greenback, which on Thursday broke above 100 yen for the first time since July, dipped to 99.58 yen in late afternoon trade, compared with 100.12 yen late in New York City.

The euro bought $1.3122 and 130.66 yen compared with $1.3117 and 131.35 yen.

Dealers were also on edge because of fears of a US-led military strike on Syria, with Western powers accusing the Damascus regime of using chemical weapons on its own civilians.

Tensions over the Middle East increased on Thursday after the US envoy to the United Nations accused Russia of holding the United Nations Security Council hostage over the crisis.



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