Bangkok: Asian markets ended mixed on Friday ahead of the release of key US jobs numbers, with Japanese stocks breaking a three-day winning streak while markets in Australia, South Korea and Indonesia advanced.
Investors were hoping the numbers could give them a better grasp of the US economic outlook. Worries about a slowdown in the American economy, a key export market that has been battered by a credit crisis and housing slump, has dragged down global markets in the last few months.
The data, when it was released late Friday evening, showed that the US employers cut more jobs in March than they had anytime in the past five years.
Traders were encouraged after Wall Street stayed firm on Thursday, despite Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s admission that a US recession was possible.
Trading was closed in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for the traditional Ching Minggrave-sweeping public holiday. These markets will reopen on Monday.
Japanese stocks fell after a three-day advance as traders sold steel and auto issues. The benchmark Nikkei 225 index sank 96.68 points, or 0.72%, to end at 13,293.22.
“The Nikkei may trade below 13,000 next week if the data disappoint the market,” said Yoshinori Nagano, a senior strategist at Daiwa Asset Management.
Nagano, however, also said fears of a further credit crisis have been alleviated by a report which says Merrill Lynch and Co. Inc.’s chief executive John Thain doesn’t think the bank needs to raise fresh capital. This suggests “we don’t have to be too concerned about a slew of US banks’ earnings results coming out later this month,” he said.
Japanese steel shares were lower on Friday, dragged down by negative sentiment triggered by a report that Tokyo Steel Manufacturing Co Ltd will stop exporting steel products mid-April due to surging scrap iron prices and a rising yen. Tokyo Steel lost 2.7% and Nippon Steel Corp. dropped 2.4%.
In Australia, further gains in resources and some other major blue chips such as QBE Insurance Group Ltdand Leighton Holdings Ltd helped the stock market finish the week with its fifth consecutive rise. There was some profit making among financials and volume was fairly light.
The benchmark S&P ASX 200 index closed up 10.7 points, or 0.2%, at 5,619.6 after hitting a five-week high of 5,657.7. Among miners, BHP Billiton Ltd rose 1.3%, while Zinifex Ltd jumped 4.6%.
India had the region’s biggest decline, with the benchmark Sensex index of the Bombay Stock Exchange sliding 3.1% to end the day on 15,343.12.
Elsewhere, Indonesia’s main index rose 1.7%, recovering from previous day’s plunge, and South Korea’s Kospi inched up 0.2% to 1,766.49.