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Asian Markets In Positive Territory Ahead Of U.S. Jobs Data


Asian stock markets are in positive territory on Friday following the overnight gains on Wall Street as better-than-expected economic data reinforced optimism in the world's largest economy. However, gains are modest in most markets as investors turned cautious ahead of the release of the closely-watched monthly U.S. jobs report for September later in the day.

Employment in the U.S. is expected to rise by 90,000 jobs in September after climbing by 156,000 jobs in August. The unemployment rate is expected to hold at 4.4 percent.

The Australian market is advancing with broad-based gains across all sectors, following the positive cues overnight from Wall Street and higher commodity prices.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 42.10 points or 0.74 percent to 5,693.90, off a high of 5698.60 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 41.20 points or 0.72 percent to 5,761.50.

In the mining sector, BHP Billiton is advancing almost 2 percent, Rio Tinto is rising more than 2 percent and Fortescue Metals is higher by more than 1 percent.

Gold miners are also advancing despite gold prices edging lower overnight. Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining are up more than 1 percent each.

The big four banks - ANZ Banking, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank - are higher in a range of 1 percent to 1.3 percent.

In the oil sector, Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search are rising more than 1 percent each, while Santos is higher by almost 2 percent after crude oil prices rebounded to above $50 a barrel overnight.

On the economic front, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group showed that the construction sector in Australia continued to expand in September, albeit at a slower pace, with a Performance of Construction Index score of 54.7.

That's down from 55.3 in August, although it remains above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction for the eighth straight month.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is sharply lower against the U.S. dollar on Friday as the greenback rallied on strong U.S. economic data. In early trades, the local unit was trading at US$0.7790, down from US$0.7827 on Thursday.

The Japanese stock market is higher, with the overnight gains on Wall Street and a weaker yen lifting investor sentiment. Nevertheless, gains are modest as investors look ahead to the release of the closely-watched U.S. monthly jobs report later in the day.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 39.02 points or 0.19 percent to 20,667.58, after rising to a high of 20,721.15 in early trades.

The major exporters are mostly higher on a weaker yen. Sony is adding almost 1 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is up 0.6 percent and Canon is adding 0.4 percent, while Panasonic is down 0.2 percent.

Among automakers, Toyota is higher by 0.6 percent and Honda is up 0.3 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is rising more than 2 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is advancing more than 1 percent.

MS&AD Insurance said it has agreed with Swiss Re AG to invest 800 million pounds, or $1.5 billion, to acquire a stake of up to 15 percent in Swiss Re's UK-based unit ReAssure Jersey One Ltd. Shares of MS&AD Insurance are advancing more than 1 percent.

In the oil space, Inpex is advancing almost 1 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration is adding 0.5 percent after crude oil prices rose to above $50 a barrel overnight.

Among the best performers, Toho Zinc is rising more than 3 percent, while Fast Retailing and Sumitomo Metal Mining are higher by almost 3 percent each. On the flip side, Chughai Pharmaceutical is losing almost 2 percent, while Dentsu and FamilyMart UNY are down more than 1 percent each.

In economic news, Japan will see preliminary August results for its leading and coincident indexes as well as August figures for labor cash earnings today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 112 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Taiwan are also higher. The markets in South Korea and China remain closed all week for the Harvest Festival and National Day, respectively.

On Wall Street, stocks closed at new record highs on Thursday, benefiting from a batch of largely upbeat U.S. economic data as well as optimism about the outlook for tax reform. Positive sentiment was generated by news the House approved a $4.1 trillion budget resolution, taking a key step in efforts to pass their tax reform plan.

The Dow rose 113.75 points or 0.5 percent to 22,775.39, the Nasdaq advanced 50.73 points or 0.8 percent to 6,585.36 and the S&P 500 climbed 14.33 points or 0.6 percent to 2,552.07.

European stocks also moved mostly higher over the course of the trading day on Thursday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index climbed by 0.5 percent and the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.3 percent, although the German DAX Index closed just below the unchanged line.

Crude oil futures rose on Thursday amid signs Saudi Arabia and Russia will agree to extend output cuts through next year. WTI crude gained $0.81 or 1.6 percent to settle at $50.79 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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