Asian shares mostly higher ahead of a key US jobs report
HONG KONG — Asian shares were mostly higher on Friday ahead of a U.S. government jobs report, after Wall Street rose Thursday to snap its first three-day losing streak since Halloween.
U.S. futures were lower and oil prices gained more than $1.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index shed 1.8 percent to 32,254.82, as investors speculated that the Bank of Japan may end its negative interest rate policy.
Before meeting Thursday with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, BOJ Gov. Kazuo Ueda told parliament the central bank would face an “even more challenging” situation at the year’s end and in early 2024. On Friday, the U.S. dollar fell to 143.79 Japanese yen from 144.12 yen. It was trading above 150 yen until mid-November.
Updated data released on Friday showed Japan’s economy shrank by 2.9 percent year-on-year in the July-September quarter, worse than estimated earlier.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.3 percent to 16,394.90 and the Shanghai Composite index was up 0.4 percent at 2,977.83. The Kospi in Seoul gained 1 percent to 2,519.07. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged up 0.2 percent to 7190.70. India’s Sensex added 0.4 percent and Bangkok’s SET gained 0.2 percent.
On Thursday, the S&P 500 climbed 0.8 percent to 4,585.59. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.2 percent to 36,117.38, and the Nasdaq composite jumped 1.4 percent to 14,339.99.
Big Tech stocks helped power the market higher, led by a 5.3-percent leap for Google’s parent company, Alphabet. They’re Wall Street’s most influential stocks because of their massive size, and they have been on huge tears so far this year.
Cerevel Therapeutics also jumped 11.4 percent after AbbVie announced an $8.7 billion deal to buy the company and its pipeline of candidates for schizophrenia, Parkinson’s and other diseases. AbbVie added 1.1 percent.
Wall Street has rallied toward its best level since March 2022 largely on hopes that the Federal Reserve is finally done raising interest rates, which are meant to get high inflation under control. Investors are watching keenly for Friday’s U.S. jobs report.
The Federal Reserve wants to see the job market slow by just the right amount. Too much weakness would mean people out of work and a possible recession, but too much strength could add upward pressure on inflation.
A report on Thursday said that slightly more U.S workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, though the number is not alarmingly high and hit economists’ expectations exactly.
Hopes for easier rates help all kinds of investments, particularly those seen as the most expensive or promising big growth far in the future. That’s helped Big Tech stocks make huge gains this year.
Alphabet’s jump on Thursday brought its gain for the year so far to just over 55 percent. On Wednesday, it announced the launch of its Gemini artificial intelligence model. Alphabet was the single strongest force pushing the S&P 500 upward, but Apple, Amazon and Nvidia all also rose at least 1 percent.
Another winner was JetBlue Airways, which climbed 15.2 percent after it said it may report better results for the final three months of the year than it earlier expected. It also slightly lowered the top end of its forecast for fuel costs during the end of 2023.
On the losing end of Wall Street, C3.ai tumbled 10.8 percent after reporting weaker revenue for the latest quarter than analysts expected.
Crude oil prices have been falling recently amid worries that global demand may fall short of available supplies. But they reversed their decline on Friday. The price for a barrel of benchmark U.S. crude gained $1.00 to $70.34. It lost 4 cents to settle at $69.34 on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained $1.15 to $75.20 per barrel.
The euro slipped to $1.0787 from $1.0793.