Asian markets mixed ahead of U.S. report on August employment

Asian stock markets were mixed Thursday after soft U.S. jobs data fueled optimism the Federal Reserve might feel less pressure to wind down stimulus.

Shanghai and Tokyo advanced while Seoul and Sydney declined. Hong Kong was little-changed.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index added 0.1% on Wednesday, pushed up by gains for tech and communications stocks.

The spread of the coronavirus’s delta variant and anti-disease measures have depressed hiring and consumer confidence. But that has reassured some investors the Fed and other central banks might postpone plans to wind down easy credit and other stimulus that has supported stock prices.

Ahead of U.S. employment data due out Friday, a survey by payroll processor ADP found companies added jobs more slowly than expected in August. A separate survey by the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, showed manufacturing employment declined.

“This seems to reduce the chances of significant outperformance” by Friday’s Labor Department report “and supports the stance that Fed tapering may not come until at least November,” said Yeap Jun Rong of IG in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5% to 3,585.81 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo gained 0.2% to 28,507.94. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong shed less than 0.1% to 26,007.74.

The Kospi in Seoul sank 0.9% to 3,177.91 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 lost 0.7% to 7,477.70.

India’s Sensex opened up 0.4% at 57,557.34. New Zealand and Bangkok gained while Singapore and Jakarta declined.

On Wall Street on Wednesday, the S&P 500 rose 1.41 points to 4,524.09. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.1% to 35,312.53. The Nasdaq climbed 0.3% to a record 15,309.38.

Economists expect that U.S. employers created 750,000 jobs in August, according to FactSet, pushing the unemployment rate down to 5.2%.

The Labor Department data could help to give investors a clearer picture of whether the Fed will decide at its September meeting on a timeline for winding down its $120 billion a month in bond purchases that inject money into the financial system.

Investors took comments by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell last week as reassurance interest rates will stay low for the foreseeable future, even when the Fed starts to reduce bond purchases.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude fell 18 cents to US$68.41 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 9 cents on Wednesday to $68.59. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, fell 12 cents to $71.47 a barrel. It fell 4 cents the previous session to $71.59 a barrel.

The dollar advanced to 109.99 from Wednesday’s 109.94. The euro declined to $1.1844 from $1.1846.


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