Asian stocks were mixed on Friday despite a positive lead from Wall Street overnight as traders looked ahead to the release of a key US jobs report, which is expected to provide a further glimpse into the health of the world’s biggest economy.
In early afternoon trading in the region, Japan’s benchmark Topix rose 0.1 per cent even as the safe haven yen strengthened to 106.80 to the dollar.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.5 per cent at the lunch break amid reports that the government is set to invoke colonial-era emergency powers that will ban the use of masks during protests. Newly-released data showed that business confidence in the Chinese-ruled city has slumped to a seven-and-a-half year low following months of political unrest.
Elsewhere in Asia-Pacific, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 benchmark edged 0.5 per cent higher while South Korea’s Kospi was flat. China’s onshore stock market remains closed for a holiday.
Overnight on Wall Street, a whipsawed S&P 500 ultimately closed 0.8 per cent higher amid concerns over slowing growth in the important US services sector. That has prompted traders to line up bets that the US Federal Reserve will cut interest rates further this month.
“The US economic data continues to unfold on a weaker side, adding to odds of the Fed accelerating its easing cycle by cutting rates again in October,” economists at ING wrote. Traders will get new insight into how slowing US growth is feeding into employment when the US government publishes its closely-watched payrolls data for September later on Friday.
Gold, another safe haven, was 0.3 per cent higher to $1,508.40 per troy ounce. S&P 500 futures were pointing 0.1 per cent lower.