Asian Markets

Asian Stocks Mixed, Ahead of U.S Job Report

Asia-Pacific stock markets traded mixed on Thursday as investors look ahead to the U.S. jobs report due later this week for clues about how long the Fed will stay on hold.

Japanese markets returned to trade for the first time this week after being closed for public holidays. The benchmark Nikkei 225 jumped 1.8%, trimming some of its earlier gains, while the Topix index was up 1.66%.

asian markets
Nikkei 225 Index Performance chart

South Korea’s Kospi, which was also closed in the previous session, rose 0.32%. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index shaved off most of its more than 1% gains to trade fractionally higher, up by 0.08%.

Chinese mainland shares traded for the first time in May after being shut for public holidays. The benchmark Shanghai composite gave up gains to decline 0.22%, while the Shenzhen component fell 1.82%.

Meanwhile, Australia’s ASX 200 slipped 0.37% as most sectors were in negative territory.

Thursday’s session in Asia-Pacific follows a mixed finish overnight on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended at a new all-time closing high.

The U.S. jobs report for April is due on Friday, and economists say payrolls could easily reach 1 million after 916,000 jobs were added in March.

Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said “Closing Bell” on Wednesday that, as the jobs picture in the U.S. continues to improve, there needs to be considerable progress before the central bank feels comfortable enough to pull back on all of the help it has provided since the Covid-19 pandemic cut short the longest expansion in U.S. history.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen this week said that interest rates might have to rise to keep a lid on the burgeoning growth of the U.S. economy brought on in part by trillions of dollars in government stimulus spending. She later tempered her comments somewhat on the need for higher rates.
Asian Markets Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar rose slightly, up 0.04% at 91.344 against a basket of its peers, as the dollar index stayed relatively rangebound.

Elsewhere, the Japanese yen changed hands at 109.37 per dollar, weakening from an earlier level around 109.14, while the Australian dollar tumbled 0.4% to $0.7716.

China, which is Australia’s largest trading partner, reportedly has “indefinitely” suspended all activities under the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue in the middle of a strained relationship between Beijing and Canberra.

Oil prices slumped during Asian trading hours. Brent crude futures fell by 16 cents, or 0.2%, to $68.80 barrel by 0123 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dropped by 20 cents, or 0.3%, to $65.43 a barrel.