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Asia markets struggle as commodity prices fall, US jobs data eyed

Most Asian markets lost ground on Friday as traders await the U.S. nonfarm payrolls data later and after drops in commodity prices overnight.

The S&P/ASX 200 ended down 0.68 percent, or 39.77 points, at 5836.60, as declines in resources shares were partially offset by Macquarie's 3.23 percent jump after the bank's full-year profit beat expectations.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended down 0.84 percent, or 207.53 points, at 24,476.35. On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite shed 0.77 percent, or 24.01 points, to end at 3103.36, and the Shenzhen Composite lost 1.24 percent, or 23.57 points, to close at 1872.79.

Markets in Japan and South Korea were closed for the Children's Day holiday.

Australia's resources shares extended losses. Rio Tinto lost 2.01 percent, Fortescue shed 3.02 percent and BHP Billiton was off 2.67 percent.

Oil stocks were also lower, with Santos off 3.02 percent and Woodside down 2.68 percent.

In U.S. trade, commodities continued their recent tumble.

"Commodities slumped across the board as the market loses faith with the oil supply cuts drawing down inventories. An apparent financial tightening in China exacerbated the bearishness in the market," ANZ said in a note early Friday.

Oil was hard hit overnight, touching five-month lows, with U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures ending down 4.8 percent at $45.52 a barrel and Brent futures off 5 percent at $48.26.

In Asia trade, oil prices erased early gains to extend losses. U.S. light crude futures dropped 1.82 percent to $44.69 a barrel by 2:35 p.m. HK/SIN, after trading as low as $43.76.

Brent was down 1.45 percent at $47.68 a barrel at 2:36 p.m. HK/SIN, after falling as low as $46.64 earlier.

Tapas Strickland, an economist at National Australia Bank, said in an early Friday note that oil prices had fallen below levels before OPEC instituted a production ceiling.

"In the words of ABBA, it seems U.S. shale oil production is presenting a Waterloo moment for OPEC," Strickland said.

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U.S. data released Wednesday showed crude oil stocks fell 930,000 barrels, compared with the 2.3 million barrel drop that was expected, leaving inventories just 7 million barrels short of the record high, Reuters reported.

This week, a Reuters survey indicated that OPEC's April compliance remained above 90 percent. But U.S. drillers have taken advantage of this year's higher prices to increase production.

Additionally, OPEC sources told Reuters that the cartel was unlikely to make cuts deeper. Some believe that is necessary because OPEC members Libya and Nigeria, both exempt from the deal, have raised output more than anticipated.

The commodity-price falls also weighed on the Australian dollar, which touched its lowest levels since January. The Aussie was fetching $0.7394 at 2:38 p.m. HK/SIN, after falling as low as $0.7365 earlier.

Cameron Spencer | Getty Images

In Hong Kong, Macau casino plays tumbled. SJM fell 4.45 percent after reporting first-quarter earnings.

CIMB said in a note Thursday that SJM's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amoritization (ebitda) were 15 percent below its forecast, while its gaming revenue fell 5 percent on-year, underperforming the overall Macau gaming market's 13 percent rise.

CIMB also noted that the opening of SJM's Grand Lisboa Palace (GLP) was delayed until the second half of 2018 due to a labor shortage, which it expected would result in further market share losses.

"As all gaming operators have seen continued delays in project openings, a 2019 opening for GLP is plausible," CIMB said, keeping a reduce call on the stock and advising taking profit.

Other casino plays also fell, with Galaxy down 4.59 percent and Wynn Macau off 2.41 percent.

In the currency market, the euro advanced, fetching $1.0974 at 2:40 p.m. HK/SIN, up from as low as $1.0877 overnight.

"Risks on French election continues to dissipate following the televised debate where [Emmanuel] Macron retained his front-runner status. His victory is expected to pave the way for ECB to signal a reduction in stimulus, given the strong pick-up in growth and inflation lately," Mizuho said in a note on Friday.

Investors also parsed through a slew of economic data on Thursday. Jobless claims fell by 19,000 to 238,000, while productivity for the first quarter fell more than expected. The U.S. trade deficit, meanwhile, narrowed to $43.7 billion. Factory orders, meanwhile, rose less than expected in March.

These data releases culminate on Friday, with the U.S. government posting its monthly payrolls report. Economists polled by Reuters expect the U.S. economy to have added 185,000 jobs last month versus 98,000 in March.

Wall Street's performance was uninspiring.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 6.43 points, or 0.03 percent, to close at 20,951.47, the S&P 500 rose 1.39 points, or 0.06 percent, to end at 2,389.52, and the Nasdaq advanced 2.79 points, or 0.05 percent, to close at 6,075.34.

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