Asian markets closed near one-month highs Friday, with investors trading cautiously ahead of U.S. jobs report that is expected to raise fresh concerns that the economy is closer to a recession. Japan finished lower, but South Korea and Australia closed almost unchanged.
Investors are keenly watching the U.S. economy because its slowdown is sapping demand and weakening the dollar, a double headache for exporters dependent on U.S. sales. The weak currency has driven up dollar-denominated commodity prices, adding to the burden on the struggling U.S. economy.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average shed 0.72 percent as investors moved to take profits after three days of rises, with automakers such as Honda Motor hit by brokerage downgrades. Japan's biggest maker of construction-use steel, Tokyo Steel said it had stopped signing export contracts due to the high price of scrap and the strong yen. Its shares fell more than 2 percent and other top steelmakers slid, with Nippon Steel down more than 3 percent, after analysts at investment bank UBS warned of the need for more price hikes to offset big rises in iron ore and coal costs.