Asia Pacific Stocks Mixed Ahead of Closely Watched US Jobs Data

Stocks in Asia Pacific were mixed on Friday, following a second day of losses overnight on Wall Street as markets continued to mull on recent comments by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. Meanwhile, investors awaited U.S. nonfarm payrolls set to be released later on Friday stateside.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was 0.29% higher in afternoon trade. Hong Kong-listed shares of HSBC jumped more than 2.5% after the bank reported first-quarter earnings that beat expectations.

In South Korea, the Kospi declined 0.74% to close at 2,196.32, as shares of industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics slipped 1.31%.

Australia’s ASX 200 finished its trading day marginally lower at 6,335.80.

Markets in Japan and China were closed for holidays.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

NIKKEI Nikkei 225 Index NIKKEI 22258.73 -48.85 -0.22
HSI Hang Seng Index HSI 30081.55 137.37 0.46
ASX 200 S&P/ASX 200 ASX 200 6335.80 -2.60 -0.04
SHANGHAI Shanghai SHANGHAI 3078.34 15.84 0.52
KOSPI KOSPI Index KOSPI 2196.32 -16.43 -0.74
CNBC 100 CNBC 100 ASIA IDX CNBC 100 8243.27 14.52 0.18

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 122.35 points lower at 26,307.79. The S&P 500 shed about 0.21% to close at 2,917.52, while the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.16% to finish at 8,036.77.

The Fed’s Powell said Wednesday that recently low inflation pressures may just be “transitory,” hinting that a rate cut may not be on the horizon, which disappointed traders. Powell’s comments sparked a sudden sell-off in the previous session, with the Dow closing more than 150 points lower.

The Fed Chairman’s comments followed the central bank’s decision to leave rates unchanged, citing lackluster inflation. Ahead of the meeting, U.S. President Donald Trump had asked the central bank to cut rates and increase stimulus.

Meanwhile, investors also have an eye on the U.S. jobs data for April, with nonfarm payrolls set to be released later on Friday stateside.

“Payrolls tonight are expected (to) reveal still robust levels of payrolls growth (190K) but there’ll be more than one eye on what the report says about average earnings growth that’s expected to grow a meagre 0.1%,” David de Garis, a director and senior economist at National Australia Bank, wrote in a morning note.

Another economist said the wage numbers are “critically important.”

“Any kind of upward spike” in the wage numbers is likely to “upset” the markets, Rob Carnell, chief economist and head of Asia Pacific research at ING, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday.

If “substantial wage growth” is observed, the possibility of rate cuts by the Fed would be taken “right off the table,” Carnell said.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.873 after rising from levels below 97.6 yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 111.47 against the dollar after seeing an earlier high of 111.39, while the Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6991 after touching highs above $0.705 earlier in the week.

Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with the Brent crude futures contract slipping 0.3% to $70.54 per barrel and U.S. crude futures declining slightly to $61.77 per barrel.

— CNBC’s Fred Imbert and Yun Li contributed to this report.

Author: Eustance Huang

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