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Asian stocks fall as traders await US jobs data; some analysts expect weak numbers
BANGKOK (AP) ' Asian stock markets were mostly lower Friday ahead of a U.S. jobs report that is a key gauge of how robust the world's No. 1 economy is.
Benchmark oil was nearly unchanged at $96 per barrel while the dollar rose against the euro and the yen.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.5 percent to 8,829.69. South Korea's Kospi dropped 1 percent to 1,964.78 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.1 percent to 20,719.23.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.4 percent at 4,249.40. Benchmarks in India, Thailand and New Zealand fell while Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia rose.
Later Friday, the U.S. government releases its report on January job creation and the unemployment rate. In December, the country added 200,000 jobs, and the jobless rate was 8.5 percent.
Some analysts said they are not expecting a strong increase in jobs, based on a report Wednesday from private payroll agency ADP. The report said private-sector employment rose by 170,000 in January from the previous month ' fewer jobs than expected.
"The two series continue to track fairly closely and both show what everyone has rightfully fretted about for the past 18 months: there hasn't been any trend improvement in job growth since mid-2010," said analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore.
Traders were largely refraining from big moves ahead of the employment data in case it turns out to be worse than expected.
"For right now, for major indexes like Dow Jones, the Hang Seng and also Germany's DAX, they are already at a relatively high level," said Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong. "For major indexes which shot up to high levels, we need more information for markets to expand the uptrend."
The results of earnings reports, meanwhile, reverberated across markets. Japan's Hitachi Ltd. jumped 7.3 percent after the electronics maker maintained its earlier earnings projection for the business year to March 31.
But Singapore Airlines fell 2.5 percent a day after announcing that quarterly profit plunged 53 percent as passenger demand slowed while higher fuel prices sent costs up. South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries plummeted 7.2 percent after posting a 91 percent plunge in fourth-quarter net profit, Yonhap News agency said.
Elsewhere, Australian miner Lynas Corp. tumbled 9.4 percent amid opposition to its rare earths plant in Malaysia's central Pahang state that is scheduled to begin operations later this year.
Stocks were largely unchanged on Wall Street on Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down less than 0.1 percent at 12,705.41. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.1 percent to 1,325.54. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.4 percent to 2,859.68.
Benchmark oil for March delivery was up 4 cents to $96.39 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell by $1.25 to end at $96.36 per barrel in New York on Thursday.
In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.3131 from $1.3141 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 76.18 yen from 76.16 yen.