Tokyo: Asian stocks sagged before monthly US jobs data on Friday, with property and resource shares weighing on Hong Kong and Australia falling, after soft US data raised concerns about the pace of economic recovery.
Gold slid from a record on profit-taking and crude futures fell for a third day after disappointing US service sector numbers, as investor caution reigned ahead of the November payrolls report seen as a health check of the economy.
Economists in a Reuters survey forecast 130,000 US jobs were lost in November compared with a loss of 190,000 jobs in October. The unemployment rate is seen at 10.2%, unchanged from the prior month. The data release is due at 7:00pm.
In Japan, shares were slightly lower after briefly squeezing into positive territory to top 10,000 for the first time in five weeks. The benchmark Nikkei index fluctuated after gains this week which saw it rise nearly 4% on Thursday.
“For further gains, investors need to see more clarity about Japan’s economic policies, along with US jobs data that could still surprise the market,” said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities.
Seoul shares rose as positive economic data and gains in shipyards and technology issues lent support.
The economy grew faster than initially predicted in the third quarter and the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 0.9%.
But the MSCI index of Asia excluding Japan fell 0.8%.
Australian stocks fell 1.2%, with top miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto down about 2% ahead of an expected agreement on final terms for their planned iron ore joint venture.
Hong Kong stocks dropped 1.1%, undermined by the soft US data. Shares of Henderson Land fell after jumping more than 6% in the previous session and CNOOC dropped 1.3%.
US stocks fell on Thursday after the unexpected contraction in the vast services sector spurred worries about the recovery.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.8%, along with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, while the Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 0.5%.
The dollar held steady at 88.25 yen, after rebounding this week from a recent 14-year trough.
The euro was unchanged at $1.5063, holding near a recent 16-month high after the European Central Bank suggested it would gradually withdraw emergency liquidity from the system..
Japanese government bonds slipped as the yen took a breather from its recent surge that stoked concerns of added deflationary pressure and prompted the Bank of Japan to step up its monetary easing.
Little impact was seen from the ruling parties’ efforts to finalise an economic stimulus package, with finance minister Hirohisa Fujii saying the government will stick to its principle of not raising bond issuance to fund stimulus.