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Asian stocks subdued ahead of US jobs

Pedestrians walk pass a share prices board in Tokyo, Japan.
Yoshikazu Tsuno | AFP | Getty Images
Pedestrians walk pass a share prices board in Tokyo, Japan.

Asian stocks were mixed on a subdued Friday, losing steam after two straight days of stellar gains, as investors awaited the crucial U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for September due later in the day.

The U.S. economy is seen adding 203,000 jobs last month, analysts polled by Reuters said.

"Today's payrolls number has once again been labelled a 'much watch' and to be fair, I think traders are getting a bit exhausted of these event risks which are supposed to carry so much weight that they can alter the investment landscape. Still, I don't see another 200,000 payrolls report as a real game changer. Naturally, the market will be keen to see if the tradition of August revisions occurs and this could alter the quality of the report. A fall in the unemployment rate (currently at 5.1%) and an increase in the participation rate would also aid the overall sentiment towards the release," IG's chief market strategist Chris Weston wrote in an email note released on Friday.

Overnight, Wall Street handed over a relatively uninspiring lead. The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average closed marginally below the flatline overnight, while the S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 0.2 percent each.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
---
ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Nikkei flat

Japan's Nikkei 225 pared losses to finish flat on the final trading day of the week.

Export-oriented stocks turned mostly higher after dollar-yen ticked up in late Asian trade. Sony shares rose for the third consecutive session, up 3.3 percent, after Goldman Sachs initiated a 'buy' rating for the stock with a price target of 4,200 yen on Wednesday.

Construction equipment makers Komatsu and Hitachi Construction Machinery closed down 2.7 and 0.9 percent respectively, while Suzuki Motor underperformed its peers with a 2.4 percent slump.

Toshiba dropped 2.1 percent on the back of news that it may lay off staff in its underperforming home appliances, TV and PC businesses and seek partnerships for its nuclear operations after a$1.3 billion accounting scandal.

Comments from the firm's newly appointed chief executive added more gloom to the company's outlook. Masashi Muromachi said on Thursday that he expected to leave the position within the next three years.

On the domestic data front, Japan's household spending increased 2.9 percent in August from a year earlier, beating Reuters' estimates for a 0.4 percent rise.

The unemployment rate for the same month rose to 3.4 percent from July, government data released before the market open showed, slightly higher than the forecast for 3.3 percent.

Hang Seng jumps 3.2%

Hong Kong's benchmark index hit a more than one-week high, as it played catch-up after being shut for public holidays on Thursday. The Hang Seng index closed 3.2 percent higher.

The China Enterprise Index which tracks Chinese companies, also more than doubled gains to 3.2 percent.

Property developers were among the top performers; China Resources Land leaped 8.7 percent, while China Overseas Land and Investment and China Vanke surged 7.1 and 3.3 percent respectively on the back of news that Chinese authorities cut the minimum downpayment level for first-time home buyers in many cities.

Shares of casino operators in Macau also attracted buy orders after data showed a narrowing drop in gaming revenues last month. Gaming revenues fell to 17.13 billion patacas ($2.15 billion), from 25.56 billion patacas a year earlier but slightly better than the 18.6 billion patacas decline in August, according to data released by the Macau government on Thursday.

Galaxy Entertainment rose 10.2 percent, while Sands China and SJM holdings climbed more than 6 percent each.

Markets in China remain closed for the week-long National Day holiday.

ASX falls 1.2%

Australian's S&P ASX 200 index succumbed to profit-taking on Friday, with financials and miners leading the slide.

Westpac and Australia and New Zealand Banking were the biggest laggards in the banking sector, down more than 2 percent each. QBE Insurance and Macquarie Group closed down 2.1 and 1.2 percent respectively.

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto dropped 0.4 and 1.7 percent respectively, tracking the renewed sell-off in the London-listed shares of Glencore on Thursday.

Retail plays remained in the red despite August retail sales beating expectations slightly, with a rise of 0.4 percent. Myer, Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi declined between 1.7 and 2.2 percent.

Kospi sheds 0.5%

South Korea's Kospi index closed down in relatively subdued trade, as investors digested the latest current account and inflation data for September.

The consumer price index (CPI) edged up 0.6 percent from a year earlier, a government report showed, missing market expectations for a 0.9 percent increase. The inflation reading marked the 10th straight month in which consumer prices in Asia's fourth-largest economy grew below 1 percent.

On a month-on-month basis, CPI dipped into negative territory for the first time this year, down 0.2 percent in September.

Meanwhile, South Korea's seasonally adjusted current account surplus inched down in August to $8.41 billion, from a revised $8.72 billion in July, central bank data showed.

Automakers took the spotlight following the release of industry data which showed robust domestic car sales in September. Auto sales by the local carmakers such as Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, GM Korea, Renault Samsung and Ssangyong Motor totaled 128,067 units last month, up 15.7 percent from a year earlier.

Shares of Hyundai fell 0.6 percent, while Kia and Ssangyong ended up 0.2 and 0.5 percent respectively.

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AirAsia eyed

AirAsia shares fell following reports by the Nikkei business daily that it is pumping more than two trillion rupiah into its Indonesian affiliate. The stock narrowed declines to below 1 percent in the afternoon trading session, outpacing the broader FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI which slipped 0.3 percent on Friday.