Asian stocks down ahead of US jobs report

Asian stocks down ahead of US jobs report

Tokyo: Most Asian stock markets fell on Friday, dragged down by more evidence the US recovery is sputtering ahead of monthly figures on employment.

The mood in the region was cautious after new unemployment benefit claims in the US rose to their highest level in four months. Investors are now awaiting a broader US jobs report due later on Friday that will give a key reading on the health of the world’s biggest economy.

The Labour Department is expected to say private employers hired 90,000 workers in July, a slight increase from the 83,000 hired in June. But because of government layoffs tied to cutting temporary census jobs, the unemployment rate is expected to rise to 9.6% from 9.5%.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index lost 29.82 points, or 0.3%, to 9,624.10 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was off 52.53 points, or 0.2%, at 21,499.56.

South Korea’s Kospi declined 0.3% to 1,778.30 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.4% to 4,547.00. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.5% to 2,607.14.

Markets in Taiwan, New Zealand and Southeast Asian nations also fell.

The U.S. government said Thursday that first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week jumped to their highest level in four months in a grim reminder of how weak the US job market remains. Analysts had expected a small fall in jobless claims.

The Dow fell 5.45, or 0.1%, to 10,674.98. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 1.43, or 0.1%, to 1,125.81, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 10.51, or 0.5%, to 2,293.06.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 85.99 yen from 85.87 yen in New York late Thursday. The euro rose to $1.3187 from $1.3181.

Benchmark crude for September delivery was up 3 cents at $82.04 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 46 cents to settle at $82.01 on Thursday.