Asian stocks ended Friday’s session on a mixed note as investors awaited a key U.S. jobs report later in the day that could provide more clarity on the economic recovery and the potential for higher inflation.
Analysts have predicted an improvement for May, with 650,000 jobs added compared with April’s surprisingly tepid gain of 266,000.
Chinese shares ended a choppy session with modest gains as U.S. President Joe Biden expanded a blacklist of Chinese firms that are off-limits to American investors over their links to Beijing’s “military-industrial complex.”
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index edged up 7.63 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,591.84, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended down 47.93 points, or 0.2 percent, at 28,918.10.
Japanese shares retreated after two straight sessions of modest gains. The Nikkei 225 Index fell 116.59 points, or 0.4 percent, to 28,941.52 as investors fretted about the extension of the COVID-19 state of emergency in several major areas. The broader Topix finished marginally higher at 1,959.19.
Heavyweight SoftBank Group shed 1.3 percent, Tokyo Electric Power tumbled 3.1 percent and Sumitomo Metal Mining gave up 2.8 percent. Automakers rose broadly, with Honda gaining 1 percent, while Toyota and Nissan both climbed 1.6 percent each.
Shares of Chinese restaurant chain Totenko soared 9.4 percent on news about a possible panda pregnancy at the nearby Ueno Zoo in Tokyo.
In economic news, the average of household spending in Japan rose an annual 13.0 percent in April, a government report showed earlier in the day. That blew away forecasts for an increase of 9.3 percent following the 6.2 percent gain in March.
Australian markets eked out modest gains to hit record highs for the third day running. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 35.30 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,295.40 and posted a 1.6 percent weekly gain. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 32.60 points, or 0.4 percent, at 7,543.30.
The big four banks rose between 1.3 percent and 1.5 percent on hopes for an economic recovery and accommodative financial conditions. Export-focused healthcare companies gained ground as the greenback hit multi-weeks highs. Sector heavyweight CSL advanced 1.5 percent.
Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto fell 1.7 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively, as copper plunged to five-week lows on fears of slowing demand from its biggest consumer.
Gold miner Evolution Mining slumped 4.6 percent and Newcrest lost 2.1 percent as bullion prices hit a two-week low on dollar strength. Tech stocks fell broadly, with Appen tumbling 6.3 percent.
Seoul stocks ended lower to snap a five-day winning streak as investors awaited the monthly U.S. jobs report for directional cues. The benchmark Kospi slipped 7.35 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 3,240.08.
Internet portal operator Naver dropped 1.4 percent, while pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics climbed 1.9 percent and automaker Hyundai Motor added 1.3 percent.
New Zealand shares advanced on investor optimism that milk processor Synlait may benefit from Beijing’s new policy of allowing couples to have three children.
The benchmark NZX-50 Index rose 66.29 points, or 0.5 percent, to 12,496.27, while Synlait shares surged 6.8 percent. Trading volumes were thin amid the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
U.S. stocks ended lower overnight as upbeat private payroll, jobless claims and service sector activity data led to renewed concerns about the outlook for monetary policy. Investors also mulled over a new report that Biden may be open to a lower tax hike.
The Dow slipped 0.1 percent and the S&P 500 dropped 0.4 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost 1 percent.
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