Asian stocks directionless ahead of US jobless report

HONG KONG, Rabi’II 26, 1437, Feb 5, 2016, SPA — Asian stock markets were uneven on Friday as investors awaited U.S. job numbers that could influence how much the Fed raises interest rates this year, AP reported.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index dropped 1.4 percent to 16,810.66 as the dollar weakened against the yen, hurting shares of the country’s export producers. South Korea’s Kospi edged up 0.2 percent to 1,920.08, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 0.9 percent to 19,348.64 and the Shanghai Composite in mainland China was flat at 2,782.36. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.1 percent to 4,976.20.
All eyes are on the U.S. government’s employment report for last month, which will be released later Friday after Asian markets have closed. Analysts expect a solid 200,000 jobs to be added, with the unemployment rate holding steady at 5 percent.
Major U.S. benchmarks closed modestly higher on Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.5 percent to 16,416.58. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 0.2 percent to 1,915.45 and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.1 percent to 4,509.56.
Oil futures were steady after the wild swings of recent days. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 6 cents to $31.78 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 56 cents to settle at $31.72 on Thursday after jumping 8 percent the day before. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil prices, added 15 cents to $34.51 a barrel in London.
The dollar weakened to 116.87 yen from 116.96 yen in the previous day’s trading, bringing its loss for the week to 3.5 percent. The euro eased to $1.1187 from $1.1199, its highest in more than three months.

10:30 LOCAL TIME 07:30 GMT