Asia stocks edge higher, dollar languishes ahead of US jobs data

Nichola Saminather, Reuters

Posted at Aug 04 2017 02:39 PM

SINGAPORE - Asian stocks inched up on Friday after a technology-led drop on Wall Street, with gains kept in check by investors' reluctance to stake out fresh positions ahead of US jobs data later in the global day.

European markets look set for an underwhelming start, with financial spreadbetter CMC Markets expecting Britain's FTSE 100 , Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 to open little changed.

The dollar hovered near the 2-1/2-year-low against the euro touched earlier this week, pressured by signs that probes into possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections are gathering pace.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 percent. The index was poised to climb 0.4 percent for the week, taking its gains so far this year to 24 percent.

Philippine shares bucked the downtrend, up 0.66 percent to 7,928.22 in late trading.

Japan's Nikkei dropped 0.3 percent on a stronger yen, and looked set to end the week little changed.

South Korea's KOSPI, which closed at a 3-1/2-week low on Thursday, recovered 0.4 percent, narrowing its losses for the week to 0.2 percent.

China's blue-chip CSI 300 reversed early losses to trade up 0.1 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was slightly higher.

Overnight, the S&P and Nasdaq closed 0.2 percent and 0.35 percent lower respectively, with the declines led by technology shares.

But the Dow managed to post slight gains, staying above the 22,000 level breached on Wednesday.

US stocks fell to intraday lows late on Thursday after the Wall Street Journal reported that Special counsel Robert Mueller has constituted a grand jury to investigate allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Two sources told Reuters on Thursday that the grand jury has issued subpoenas in connection with a June 2016 meeting that included US President Donald Trump's son, his son-in-law and a Russian lawyer.

"Politics came to the forefront once again with the latest developments in the Trump-Russia probe," said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore, who added that "equity markets continued with a semblance of calm awaiting Friday's US jobs report".

Non-farm payrolls were expected to have increased by 183,000 jobs last month after surging by 222,000 in June, a Reuters survey of economists found. The unemployment rate is seen falling one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.3 percent.

The dollar weakened against the euro, with the common currency up 0.1 percent at $1.188, just a whisker below its highest level since January 2015 hit on Wednesday. The euro is set to end the week 1.15 percent stronger.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major peers, languished near the 15-month low hit earlier this week. It was down almost 0.1 percent on Friday at 92.776, set to end the week 0.5 percent lower.

The dollar was marginally higher at 110.08 yen, failing to make up most of Thursday's 0.6 percent loss. It is on track for a weekly loss of 0.6 percent.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes were at 2.228 percent on Friday. On Thursday, they fell to as low as 2.218 percent, their lowest level since late June, and closed at 2.228 percent.

Sterling on Friday revisited a nine-month low against the euro hit overnight after the Bank of England's policymakers kept interest rates at a record-low 0.25 percent.

"With the central bank downgrading its UK GDP growth forecast for both this year and 2018, sterling is poised for further punishment down the road," Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at ForexTime, wrote in a note.

Sterling was at 0.9041 against the euro on Friday, after falling to as low as 0.9048, its weakest since Nov. 2.

That helped lift the FTSE 0.85 percent overnight.

Venezuela's bolivar currency tumbled 18 percent against the US dollar on Thursday on the black market, ahead of the inauguration of a legislative superbody that the opposition says will give President Nicolas Maduro sweeping new powers.

In commodities, oil prices continued to be weighed down by persistent concerns about high crude supplies from both OPEC and the United States.

US crude slipped 0.2 percent to $48.93 a barrel, after sliding 1.1 percent overnight, putting it on track for a weekly loss of 1.6 percent.

Global benchmark Brent also dropped 0.2 percent to $51.91, extending Thursday's 0.7 percent loss, headed for a 1.2 percent weekly decline.

Spot gold was steady at $1,268.12 an ounce, holding on to Thursday's 0.15 percent gain, and set to end the week little changed.