Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk past an electronic screen displaying the opening figure of the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong in this file photo. Picture: BLOOMBERG/CHAN LONG HEI
Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk past an electronic screen displaying the opening figure of the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong in this file photo. Picture: BLOOMBERG/CHAN LONG HEI

Hong Kong — Asian shares held their gains on Friday while the dollar was at a month low against major peers as traders awaited US employment data with global shares at record highs.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was broadly flat in early trading in Asia having posted gains in eight of the past nine sessions as the benchmark edges back towards its position in mid July before Chinese regulatory crackdowns sent shares tumbling.

Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.38%, and MSCI’s all-country world index edged higher having ended the previous session at its fifth consecutive closing high.

Australia was up 0.3% and South Korea rose 0.61% while Chinese blue chips fell 0.27% and Hong Kong dropped 0.6% right after the bell, as traders try to balance weaker economic data out of China against the potential for future stimulus.

Investors anticipate that Beijing will accelerate fiscal spending and credit growth as its economic recovery slows, but that such measures will be finely targeted as the US Federal Reserve prepares to taper its own stimulus.

Traders are hoping to get a better sense of the timing and pace of US tapering on Friday after US nonfarm payroll data is published later in the day, as Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell has suggested an improvement in the employment numbers is the remaining major prerequisite for action.

According to a Reuters survey of economists, nonfarm payrolls likely increased by 750,000 jobs last month after rising 943,000 in July.

“When it comes to tapering the focus is now the labour market. If we’re in the area of 750,000 the expectation will be for a September tapering announcement,” said Stefan Hofer, chief investment strategist at LGT private bank in Asia.

Hofer said he was focused on leisure and hospitality jobs as they were a good indicator of the state of the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

US treasuries have been cautious ahead of the data release, and in Asian hours on Friday the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes was 1.2919% compared with its US close of 1.294% on Thursday.

The dollar stayed pinned at month lows against a basket of currencies, with the euro doing a fair amount of the work.

The European single currency touched its highest level since early August against the greenback on Friday, as markets start to react to the potential for more sustained eurozone inflation and reduced stimulus from the European Central Bank (ECB).

“The persistence of the increase in input inflation will provide more substance to arguments that the ECB should soon start to dial back its asset purchases,” analysts at ANZ said.

Oil prices fell in early Asian hours having risen by more than $1 a barrel on Thursday.

US crude dipped 0.36% to $69.74 a barrel. Brent crude fell 0.27% to $72.81 per barrel.

Reuters

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