Asian stock markets mostly lower ahead of US jobs report, strong yen drags Japan down

By Alex Kennedy, AP
Friday, October 8, 2010

Asian stocks mostly down ahead of US jobs report

SINGAPORE — Asian stock markets were mostly lower Friday as investors pared bets ahead of a key U.S. jobs report later in the day and the yen traded at a 15-year high against the dollar.

The U.S., a major market for Asia’s exporters, likely added a net 75,000 jobs in September — not enough to make a dent in the high unemployment rate or convince Americans to spend big as the Christmas shopping season nears.

The jobs report, always closely watched, comes amid growing expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will announce new steps to boost the world’s No. 1 economy at its next policy meeting in early November.

But some analysts expect weak results from a possible second round of quantitative easing — where the Fed buys Treasury bonds and other assets to lower long-term interest rates to boost the economy. Such an outcome could send investors piling into stock markets in Asia and other fast-growing regions in search of higher returns.

“Investors in developed countries where quantitative easing is not bearing fruit are likely to continue to hunt for better returns overseas,” Capital Economics said. “Equity market valuations have already risen sharply in many emerging countries, but valuations do not yet look unsustainable in general.”

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average fell 70.45 points, or 0.7 percent, to 9,614.36 amid concern a stronger yen is undermining the country’s vital exporters. The Japanese currency has hit a succession of 15-year highs against the dollar, which fell to 82.12 yen at one point Thursday in New York.

Shares in mainland China jumped, with investors playing catch-up as financial markets reopened after the weeklong National Day holidays. The Shanghai Composite index vaulted 3.5 percent to 2,746.35. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.8 percent to 23,056.69.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.3 percent to 1,894.55 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.2 percent at 4,681.40. Markets in India, Taiwan, Singapore, and Indonesia also fell.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 19.07, or 0.2 percent, to close at 10,948.58.

Slightly better news on claims for U.S. unemployment insurance gave stocks there an early lift, but the gains faded quickly as traders opted for caution ahead of Friday’s employment report from the Labor Department, the most crucial piece of news on the economic calendar.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 1.91, or 0.2 percent, to 1,158.06, while the Nasdaq composite rose 3.01, or 0.1 percent, to 2,383.67.

Gold, which is considered a safe alternative to the dollar, hit another record of $1,366.00 an ounce Thursday before pulling back to $1,335.00.

In currencies, the dollar fell to 82.34 yen from 83.39 yen late Thursday in New York. The euro rose to $1.3929 from $1.3917.

Benchmark crude was up 6 cents at $81.73 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost $1.56 to settle at $81.67 a barrel on Thursday.

will not be displayed