Sydney: Asian stocks squeezed higher on Friday but gains were tentative ahead of all-important US jobs data that tends to swing markets.
There was no missing the sombre mood ahead of the employment report at 6:00pm, which will add to the debate on whether the US economy is headed for a second recession.
Surprisingly strong US manufacturing data earlier this week dispelled some gloom about faltering growth, but investors were far from convinced all was well.
“It would have to be a big negative surprise to derail sentiment,” said Tim Condon, the head of research at ING in Singapore, of the jobs data. “We think investors are braced for a negative payrolls surprise.”
The MSCI Asian stock index outside Japan edged up just 0.3%. In Japan, stocks rose 0.4%, with exporters among the best performers. Canon Inc rose 1.3% and Sony Corp added 2.1%.
The US labour market is forecast to have shed 100,000 jobs in August as the jobless rate crept higher to 9.6%.
As always, a bad outcome would likely hammer assets deemed dependent on strong economic growth, such as stocks and commodities, whilst boosting government bonds.
Underscoring angst about the US economy, traditional safe-haven currencies were clinging to recent peaks, while US Treasury yields edged lower.
The yen was locked near a 15-year high against the dollar, while the Swiss franc flew near a record on the euro.