Asian Markets Mostly Lower Ahead Of U.S. Jobs Data

Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Friday following the mixed cues overnight from Wall Street amid optimism about a U.S.-China trade deal after both countries said progress is being made in trade talks.

Investors are cautious ahead of the release of the U.S. monthly jobs report for March later in the day. Trading volumes were muted due to the markets in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan remaining closed for a holiday.

The Australian market is lower for a second straight day following the mixed cues from Wall Street and as investors digested data showing that the construction sector in Australia continued to contract in March.

Investors are also cautious as they await news on the U.S.-China trade front as well as look ahead to the release of the U.S. monthly jobs report for March later in the day. Tech stocks and banks are among the major decliners.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 41.60 points or 0.67 percent to 6,191.20, off a low of 6186.90, while the broader All Ordinaries Index is down 43.00 points or 0.68 percent to 6,277.40. Australian shares fell sharply on Thursday to snap a seven-day winning streak.

In the tech space, Appen is losing almost 5 percent, WiseTech Global is falling more than 4 percent and Xero is lower by more than 2 percent.

The big four banks are also weak. ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and National Australia Bank are losing in a range of 0.2 percent to 1.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the major miners are mostly higher. Fortescue Metals is advancing 1 percent and Rio Tinto is adding 0.5 percent, while BHP Group is down 0.2 percent.

Gold miners are also higher despite gold prices edging lower overnight. Newcrest Mining is advancing almost 1 percent and Evolution Mining is higher by more than 1 percent.

Oil stocks are mostly advancing despite a modest decrease in crude oil prices. Oil Search is up 0.4 percent and Woodside Petroleum is rising 0.3 percent, while Santos is losing more than 1 percent.

AP Eagers, the largest shareholder of Automotive Holdings Group or AHG, has made a takeover bid of A$1.92 per share for the rival vehicle retailer, amid declining new car sales in Australia as well as to be better equipped to handle the rise of electric and automated vehicles. Shares of AP Eagers are higher by more than 6 percent, while those of AHG are gaining almost 15 percent.

In economic news, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group revealed that the construction sector in Australia continued to contract in March, albeit at a slower rate, with a Performance of Construction Index score of 45.6. That’s up from 43.8, although it remains well above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is slightly lower against the U.S dollar on Friday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7112, down from $0.7116 on Thursday.

The Japanese market is modestly higher following the mostly positive cues from Wall Street and on a weaker yen amid optimism about U.S.-China trade talks. Nevertheless, investors are cautious as they look ahead to the release of the U.S. jobs data for March later in the day.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 54.52 points or 0.25 percent to 21,779.47, after touching a high of 21,839.18 in early trades. Japanese stocks fluctuated before closing marginally higher on Thursday.

The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Sony is advancing more than 2 percent and Panasonic is up 0.4 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric and Canon are adding 0.2 percent each.

In the tech sector, Advantest is advancing more than 1 percent and Tokyo Electron is up almost 1 percent. Among the major automakers, Honda is adding 0.4 percent and Toyota is rising 0.6 percent.

In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is higher by 0.6 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is adding 0.5 percent. In the oil sector, Inpex is rising more than 1 percent and Japan Petroleum is edging up 0.1 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Rakuten is gaining more than 5 percent, Yamaha Motor is rising more than 3 percent and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha is higher by almost 3 percent.

On the flip side, Nippon Suisan Kaisha is losing more than 2 percent and Chughai Pharmaceutical is lower by almost 2 percent.

In economic news, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that the average of household spending in Japan was up 1.7 percent on year in February, coming in at 271,232. That missed expectations for a gain of 1.9 percent following the 2.0 percent increase in January.

Japan will also release February figures for labor cash earnings and for its leading and coincident indexes.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 111 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, New Zealand, Indonesia and Malaysia are also lower, while Singapore is modestly higher. The markets in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong are closed on Friday for the Tomb Sweeping Day holiday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Thursday as traders awaited news on the U.S.-China trade front as well as the release of the monthly jobs report for March on Friday.

The Dow climbed 166.50 points or 0.6 percent to 26,384.63 and the S&P 500 rose 5.99 points or 0.2 percent to 2,879.39, while the Nasdaq edged down 3.77 points or 0.1 percent to 7,891.78.

The major European markets also ended mixed on Thursday. While the German DAX Index rose by 0.3 percent, the French CAC 40 Index edged down by 0.1 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index slipped by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil futures extended losses to a second straight day on Thursday, weighed down by recent data that showed a sharp rise in U.S. crude inventories. WTI crude for May settled at $62.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, losing $0.36.

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