Hong Kong: Asian markets slipped in nervous trade on Friday ahead of the release of key jobs data from the United States, with profit-taking adding to downward pressure after a four-day rally.
Hong Kong fell 0.85%, Tokyo lost 1.11% by the break, Sydney gave up 1.05%, Shanghai shed 0.26% and Seoul was down 0.45%.
Most Asian markets had risen over the past four days after US Fed chief Ben Bernanke suggested that the bank would kick off a fresh round of monetary easing in the near future.
But investors were cautious prior to the US non-farm payrolls figures out of Washington later Friday as they look for clues to the state of the world’s biggest economy after months of broadly weak data pointed to a slowdown.
Many fear a return to recession.
A report from payrolls firm ADP on Wednesday said the US private sector created 91,000 jobs in August, falling short of expectations. And on Thursday data showed initial jobless claims had fallen 12,000 in the week ending August 27, but remained stubbornly high at 409,000.
“It looks like the market is set for a weaker end to the week as traders look to lock in profits ahead of tonight’s much anticipated US nonfarm jobs report,” Ben Potter, market strategist at IG Markets, said.
Manufacturing in Asia and the eurozone was unable to provide much support.
In the eurozone, activity slumped, according to a monthly survey, while in China official data showed a very modest pick-up but in South Korea, Taiwan and Australia all registered contraction.
However, the US Institute for Supply Management put the reading for its monthly manufacturing survey at 50.6%, lower than in July but above expectations. A number above 50 reflects expansion.
Despite that news Wall Street capped a four-day winning run.
The Dow dived 1.03%, the S&P 500 sank 1.19% and the Nasdaq tumbled 1.30% due to concerns the jobs figures will disappoint.
In Tokyo Toshiyuki Kanayama, senior market analyst at online brokerage firm Monex, said: “The Nikkei has been up for six straight days and expectations are low for the US jobs report tonight.
“So we’re seeing profit-taking particularly in exporters ahead of the weekend,” Kanayama told Dow Jones Newswires.
The euro bought $1.4271 in early Asian trade, slightly up from $1.4260 in New York late Thursday, while it was at 109.79 yen from 109.71.
The dollar was at 76.88 yen, almost flat from New York.
On oil markets New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in October, lost two cents to $88.91 per barrel.
Brent North Sea crude for October delivery gained 19 cents to $114.48.
Gold opened at $1,825.50-$1,826.50 an ounce in Hong Kong, unchanged from Thursday’s close.