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Asia stocks subdued as investors look ahead to jobs report stateside

Key Points
  • Asia stocks were muted on Friday.
  • Investors awaited the release of the nonfarm payrolls report stateside on Friday, which could provide clues as to whether the U.S. Federal Reserve would cut interest rates at its monetary policy meeting later in July.

Stocks in Asia were muted on Friday ahead of the release of the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report, which may provide clues as on whether the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates at its July monetary policy meeting.

Mainland Chinese stocks were higher on the day, with the Shanghai composite up 0.19% to about 3,011.06 and the Shenzhen component adding 0.8% to 9,443.22. The Shenzhen composite was higher by 0.626% to approximately 1,601.20.

Over in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was 0.13% lower, as of its final hour of trading.

India's Nifty 50 fell below the 11,900 level as the country announced its budget for the fiscal year from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020.

In her budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said India needs to invest heavily in infrastructure, digital economy and job creation in small and medium-sized firms to achieve its goal of becoming a $5 trillion economy over the next several years.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 added 0.2% to close at 21,746.38 and the Topix rose 0.18% to end its trading day at 1,592.58.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Kospi finished its trading day fractionally higher at 2,110.59, as shares of industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics fell 0.76% after reporting that second-quarter profit likely dropped 56% as compared to a year ago.

Australia's closed 0.5% higher at 6,751.30 as most of the sectors advanced.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

US jobs data

Investors awaited the release of the nonfarm payrolls report stateside later in the day, with economists expecting U.S. private payroll employment to have grown by 153,000 in June, according to a Reuters poll. That compares to a figure of 90,000 from the previous month. Total non-farm employment is expected to have changed by 160,000.

A weaker-than-expected figure from the upcoming payrolls report could increase bets that the Fed will cut interest rates at its meeting on July 30 and 31. The central bank opened the door to easier monetary policy last month by stating it will "act as appropriate" to maintain the current economic expansion.

"A number in line with expectations is unlikely to deter market expectations for a Fed funds rate cut at the end of July," Rodrigo Catril, senior foreign exchange strategist at National Australia Bank, wrote in a note.

"To some extent the Fed's debate is really about whether a 25 or 50 (basis point) rate cut is in the offing and a soft print will most likely encourage the market to increase its expectations for a 50 (basis point) cut," Catril said.

On Wednesday, a report from ADP and Moody's Analytics showed private payrolls rising by 102,000 in June.

One investor told CNBC that Wednesday's private payrolls figure "corroborates the broader weaker numbers" that have been released recently.

"It basically points to a ... deceleration in the global economy which is one of the reasons why expectations now are ... for rate cuts this year." said Daryl Liew, head of portfolio management at REYL Singapore.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.829 after seeing levels around 96.3 earlier in the week.

The traded at 107.94 against the dollar after touching a high of 107.77 earlier, while the changed hands at $0.7017 after slipping from levels around $0.704 in the previous session.

Oil prices were lower in Asia afternoon trading hours, with the international benchmark Brent crude futures contract 0.28% lower at $63.12 per barrel, while U.S crude futures slipped 1.27% to $56.61 per barrel.

— Reuters and CNBC's Saheli Roy Choudhury contributed to this report.