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Asia Pacific stocks mixed amid expectations of Fed rate cut

Key Points
  • Asia Pacific stocks were mixed on Thursday.
  • On Wednesday, data showed that private payrolls in the U.S. increased less than expected in June, raising expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve could cut interest rates at its upcoming monetary policy meeting.
  • Meanwhile, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Wednesday that face-to-face negotiations between the U.S. and China would begin "soon."

Stocks in Asia Pacific were mixed on Thursday as worse-than-expected U.S. economic data raised expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve could cut interest rates at its upcoming July meeting.

The Nikkei 225 closed 0.3% higher at 21,702.45 as shares of index heavyweight Softbank Group jumped more than 3%, while the Topix gained 0.65% to finish its trading day at 1,589.78.

In South Korea, the Kospi advanced 0.61% to close at 2,108.73, while Australia's added 0.49% to end its trading day at 6,718.00.

Shares in mainland China slipped on the day, with the Shanghai composite slipping 0.33% to 3,005.25 and the Shenzhen component 0.55% lower to 9,368.30. The Shenzhen composite also declined 0.548% to 1,591.24.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was fractionally lower, as of its final hour of trading.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

On Wednesday, data showed that private payrolls in the U.S. increased less than expected in June, raising expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve could cut interest rates at its upcoming monetary policy meeting. Last month, the central bank opened the door to easier monetary policy by stating it will "act as appropriate" to maintain the current economic expansion.

Overnight stateside, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 179.32 points to end the day at 26,966, notching intraday and closing all-time highs. The Nasdaq Composite added 0.7% to close at 8,170.23, while the also gained 0.7% to close at 2,995.82.

Markets on Wall Street will be closed on Thursday for the Fourth of July holiday.

Investors will now be watching for the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report, set to be released stateside on Friday.

"The U.S. non-farm payrolls report is always a big mover for the U.S. dollar and all of the major currencies but this month's report could be more market moving than usual," Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, wrote in a note.

"Last month, the Federal Reserve said they are close to cutting interest rates but how quickly they move depends on data. In that case, there's no single economic report as important as the jobs report," Lien said. "If job growth falls short of expectations, the market could immediately move to pricing in a July interest rate cut."

US-China trade

Meanwhile, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Wednesday that face-to-face negotiations between the U.S. and China would begin "soon. "

Investors are watching for developments as the two economic powerhouses remain locked in a trade fight, with Kudlow's comments coming days after U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed not to impose new tariffs on each other's goods.

But Neil Dwane, global strategist at Allianz Global Investors, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday: "We still think it's 50-50 ... that the U.S. and China eventually face off on trade ... and technology."

"The postponing of it doesn't mean it's an all-clear," he added.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.748 following its rise from levels around 96.3 earlier in the week.

The traded at 107.79 against the dollar after strengthening from levels around 108.5 seen earlier this week. The was at $0.7030 after rising from levels below $0.699 yesterday.

Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures slipping 1.1% to $63.12 per barrel and U.S. crude futures declining 1.15% to $56.68 per barrel.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.