Stock market today: Asian shares advance ahead of US jobs report

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

Oil prices and U.S. futures were higher.

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

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

The weaker yen has helped boost prices for imported goods, a factor behind the Bank of Japan’s recent decision to give up its negative interest rate policy and raise its benchmark rate to zero to 0.1% from a longstanding level of minus 0.1%. It might raise rates further, Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics said in a commentary, even if its target of 2% isn’t met.

“Even though the economic case for preventing the yen from sliding is much weaker, the Ministry of Finance seems to have responded with an even more forceful round of foreign exchange interventions this week than it did two years ago,” Thieliant said.

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 153.15 early Friday, down from 153.65 late Thursday. The euro rose to $1.0735 from $1.0727.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 1.7% to 18,518.64, tracking gains on Wall Street. News of fresh moves by Chinese leaders to energize the economy helped drive buying of technology shares.

E-commerce giant Alibaba climbed 3.9% and rival was up 5%. Baidu advanced 4.2%.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.6% to 7,629.00 and the Kospi in Seoul slipped 0.3% to 2,676.63. Taiwan’s Taiex picked up 0.5%.

India’s Sensex shed 0.9% to 73,952.37.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 rose 0.9% 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. That more than halved its drop for the week.

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

On Friday, the U.S. 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 Thursday showed that fewer U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

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

DoorDash sank 10.3% after reporting a worse loss than expected, while Peloton Interactive swung from an early gain to a loss of 2.8% after it said it would cut roughly 400 jobs as part of a program to save $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 U.S. 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, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 17 cents to $79.12 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 5 cents on Thursday.

Brent crude, the international standard, added 18 cents to $83.85 per barrel.

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