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World stock markets fall ahead of key US jobs report
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) ' Global stock markets slumped Friday ahead of the release of U.S. employment figures that are under close scrutiny for further clues about the state of the world's largest economy.
In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index, Asia's biggest market, ended a six-session winning streak, falling 1.2 percent to 8,950.74. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index declined 1.8 percent to 20,212.91.
Shares in Europe started lower.
Britain's FTSE 100 fell 1.8 percent to 5,320.85. Germany's DAX declined 2.7 percent to 5,574.86 and France's CAC-40 shed 2.3 percent to 3,189.92.
Wall Street, meanwhile, was set to open lower after falling Thursday. Dow Jones industrial futures declined 0.6 percent to 11,392 while S&P 500 futures were down 0.8 percent to 1,191.60.
The U.S. Labor Department announces figures for employment and the jobless rate in August later Friday. Employers are expected to have added 93,000 jobs. Such a figure would not significantly dent the current unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.
Fears that the U.S. economy is in danger of falling back into recession have dogged markets, though recent indicators ' including gains in auto sales, manufacturing and consumer spending ' point to steady, though not strong, growth.
On the negative side, however, consumer confidence plunged in August to a two-year low and a key category that tracks business investment plans declined 0.9 percent in July.
"This is a big number," said Jackson Wong, vice president at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong, referring to the jobs report. "The market is still very cautious ahead of the non-farm payrolls data."
Investors watch the report as a key barometer of the health of the U.S. economy, which despite its recovery from the worst of the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the global financial meltdown has struggled to create enough jobs to sharply bring down the unemployment rate.
Elsewhere in Asia, mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.1 percent to 2,528.28 amid concerns over the potential impact of currency appreciation.
"Textile and clothing companies fell because of worries that the appreciation of the Chinese currency could affect exports," said Shanghai-based analyst Peng Yunliang.
In Seoul, South Korea's Kospi shed 0.7 percent to 1,867.75, ending six consecutive gains. Markets in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Singapore also fell.
Benchmarks in the Philippines and India, however, bucked the losing trend to gain less than 1 percent each.
In New York on Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 1 percent to 11,493.57, giving up early gains of as much as 103 points and snapping a four day winning streak on falling bank stocks and caution ahead of the jobs report.
In currencies, the dollar strengthened slightly to 76.80 yen from 76.78 yen late in New York on Thursday. New Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda named Jun Azumi, a 49-year-old former journalist, to succeed him as finance minister Friday as he launches his Cabinet. Japan, the world's third-largest economy, is struggling with the effects of a currency that remains near an all-time high against the dollar.
"In respect of the strong yen, we expect Noda to maintain the links he formed with the BOJ as finance minister and continue with a policy framework that includes forex market intervention," Naohiko Baba, chief economist for Goldman Sachs in Tokyo, wrote in a report Friday, referring to the new prime minister's relationship with the Bank of Japan. The central bank carries out currency market intervention on behalf of the finance ministry.
The euro, meanwhile, fell to $1.4239 from $1.4273.
Benchmark oil for October delivery was down 73 cents to $88.21 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 12 cents to settle at $88.93 per barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.
In London, Brent crude for October delivery was down 79 cents at $113.50 on the ICE Futures exchange.
AP Business Writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo and AP researcher Fu Ting in Shanghai contributed to this report.