Asia Markets

Asia stocks mostly higher, with Nikkei closed up 0.5 pct despite stronger yen

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Asian markets were mostly higher Friday as markets awaited key U.S. jobs data, which will offer a key indicator of whether the Federal Reserve will pull the trigger in June.

The Japanese yen was also on investors' radar after the dollar-yen fell below 109 Thursday. Despite the stronger yen, the closed up 0.48 percent, or 79.68 points at 16,642.23, breaking its two-day losing streak. The dollar-yen currency pair was trading at 108.75 at 2:27 p.m. HK/SIN time.

Shares of the heavily-weighed Fast Retailing surged up 6.88 percent, after its apparel retail chain Uniqlo reported that within Japan, sales in May grew 5.9 percent from a year ago.

As of April, Fast Retailing had an 8.13 percent weighting in the Nikkei 225 index.

Down Under, the ASX 200 finished its session up 0.76 percent, or 40.1 points at 5,318.9, with its materials subindex up 1.15 percent and its financials subindex 0.7 percent higher. In South Korea, the Kospi was closed effectively flat at 1,985.84. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.35 percent at 3:06 p.m. HK/SIN time.

Mainland Chinese markets erased early gains after the private Caixin Markit services purchasing managers' index (PMI) for May fell to 51.2 from 51.8 in April. Readings above 50 indicate an expansion on a monthly basis. The survey showed that new business and hiring in China's private sector slowed to a three-month low.

The finished up 0.44 percent, or 12.949 points at 2,938.178 and the Shenzhen composite closed up 0.529 percent, or 10.07 points at 1,914.81.

Japan also released April price-adjusted real wages which showed signs of wage increases slowing. Wage growth is key to Japan's government's efforts to drive private consumption and raise inflation.

A Markit/Nikkei survey of Japan's services sector showed that activity expanded in May, coming in at 50.3, compared with 49.3 in April on a seasonally adjusted basis, Reuters reported.

Shares of embattled commodities trader Noble Group tumbled as much as 13.33 percent to touch their lowest levels since 2003 on trade resumption after the company announced a fully underwritten rights issue.

The offering is aimed at raising about $400 million to "improve the group's financial flexibility," according to the company's statement. It also announced that its chairman, Richard Elman, will be stepping down and is looking for a successor.

Oil prices shrugged off losses on OPEC's decision not to set an output ceiling, getting a boost after EIA data showed a weekly fall in U.S. crude stockpiles.

U.S. crude futures were up 0.18 percent at $49.26, while Brent futures gained 0.26 percent to $50.16 a barrel by 2:31 p.m. SIN/HK. On Thursday, Brent futures had ended at $50.04, the first settlement above $50 since November 3.

On Friday, investors will be closely watching U.S. nonfarm payrolls, factory orders, ISM services and trade.

The consensus estimate is for U.S. nonfarm payrolls to come in weaker than April figures at 164,000, with the unemployment rate at 4.9 percent, according to Reuters.

The finished up 0.39 percent at 4,971.36 points. The finished down 0.27 percent at 17,838.56, while the S&P 500 ended at its highest since November 3, 2015, up 0.28 percent at 2,105.26.

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