Asia stocks fluctuate ahead of US jobs report

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stocks fluctuated Friday as investors looked for direction before a key U.S. jobs report later in the day while Japan's market edged higher after the yen fell to a six-year low.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index added 0.1 percent to 15,693.25. South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.4 percent to 2,048.59 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.3 percent to 25,227.97. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5 percent to 2,318.13. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.6 percent to 5,598.40. Benchmarks in Taiwan and Singapore fell while those in Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and New Zealand gained.

ECB SURPRISES: In a fresh bid to revive the lifeless eurozone economy, the European Central Bank surprised markets Thursday with a cut to its main interest rate bringing it to a record low of 0.05 percent. That gave European and U.S. benchmarks a big initial boost but the effect wore off by the time Asian trading opened.

CURRENCIES: The dollar is gaining strength after the ECB's rate cut and the Bank of Japan's decision Thursday to hold steady on stimulus even after a GDP contraction in the second quarter. The dollar was at 105.36 after rising as high as 105.71 yen, the highest level since October 2008, from 105.38 in late trading Thursday. The euro slipped to a 14-month low of $1.2932 from $1.2937 in late trading Thursday.

US JOBS: Investors are standing pat ahead of a U.S. government jobs report later Friday. Economists expect it will show that the world's biggest economy added 220,000 jobs in August, which would be the seventh month in a row of gains exceeding 200,000.

THE QUOTE: "Markets will consolidate in expectation of the U.S. labor market report later in the day," Credit Agricole CIB's Dariusz Kowalczyk wrote in a report. "Therefore, volatility during much of the day will be limited as players will not want to take the risk of new positions before the data."

WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.1 percent to close Thursday at 17,069.58 points. The S&P 500 index fell 0.2 percent to 1,997.65. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.2 percent to 4,562.29.

ENERGY: The price of oil slumped after U.S. government data showed supplies fell less than expected last week, suggesting demand in the world's No. 1 economy wasn't as strong as believed. Benchmark crude oil slipped 1 cent to $94.44 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Stock Exchange, after falling 1.1 percent, or $1.09, to settle at $94.45 on Thursday.