Asian Shares Advance Ahead Of US Jobs Data

Asian shares were mostly higher on Friday ahead of a report on the US jobs market, while several major markets, including Tokyo and Shanghai, were closed for holidays.

Oil prices and US futures were higher.

The Japanese yen strengthened slightly against the US dollar amid signs of heavy central bank intervention to tamp down the US dollar’s advance.

The financial newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported that estimates showed the Bank of Japan spending an estimated 8 trillion yen (about USD 50 billion) this week in trying to keep the yen from slipping further against the dollar.

While a weak yen can be a boon to Japanese companies that earn much of their revenues overseas, significant shifts in the foreign exchange market can play havoc with corporate planning, and a sharply weaker yen also boosts costs for imports of oil and other vital commodities.

The dollar was trading at 153.08 early Friday, down from 153.65 late Thursday. The euro rose to USD 1.0732 from USD 1.0727.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 1 per cent to 18,301.11, tracking gains on Wall Street. News of fresh moves by Chinese leaders to energize the economy helped drive the buying of technology shares.

E-commerce giant Alibaba climbed 3.5 per cent and rival was up 4.2 per cent.

Australia’s S and P/ASX 200 gained 0.7 per cent to 7,637.00 and the Kospi in Seoul edged 0.2 per cent higher. Taiwan’s Taiex picked up 0.8 per cent.

On Thursday, the S and P 500 rose 0.9 per cent to 5,064.20 a day after swinging sharply when the Federal Reserve said it’s likely delaying cuts to interest rates but not planning to hike them. It more than halved its drop for the week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.9 per cent to 38,225.66, and the Nasdaq composite jumped 1.5 per cent, to 15,840.96.

On Friday, the US government will report on how many jobs employers added last month, one of the most highly anticipated economic updates each month.

Economists expect it to show a slowdown in hiring.

A report on Thursday showed that fewer US workers applied for unemployment benefits last week than economists expected. It’s the latest signal that the job market remains solid despite high interest rates.

A separate, potentially more disappointing report suggested growth in how much US workers produced per hour worked was weaker at the start of 2024 than economists expected. A measure comparing labor costs to productivity, meanwhile, rose by more than expected in the preliminary report. That could put upward pressure on inflation.

Earnings reports from several big companies helped drive the market higher on Thursday. Qualcomm rose 9.7 per cent after topping forecasts for profit and revenue in the latest quarter.

Carvana revved 33.8 per cent higher after the used-car seller reported much better results for the latest quarter than analysts expected, boosted by better-than-forecast sales.

MGM Resorts International rose 2.8 per cent after also topping forecasts for profit and revenue. It credited stronger traffic at MGM China, which ramped up as COVID-19 restrictions fell away in Macau.

Apple climbed 2.2 per cent ahead of its profit report, which arrived after trading ended on Thursday.

DoorDash sank 10.3 per cent after reporting a worse loss than expected, while Peloton Interactive swung from an early gain to a loss of 2.8 per cent after it said it would cut roughly 400 jobs as part of a program to save USD 200 million in costs annually . It also said its CEO, Barry McCarthy, is stepping down. The company’s stock had fallen to a record low last week.

The US economy is in a tight spot, where the hope is that it remains strong enough to stay out of a recession but not so strong that it worsens the already stalled progress on inflation.

Stubbornly high readings on inflation this year pushed Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell to say on Wednesday that it will likely take “longer than previously expected” to get enough confidence about inflation to cut interest rates.

In energy trading, US benchmark crude oil gained 20 cents to USD 79.15 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It loses 5 cents on Thursday.

Brent crude, the international standard, also added 20 cents to USD 83.87 per barrel.