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Asian Markets Mixed Ahead Of U.S. Jobs Data

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Asian stock markets are mixed on Friday in the absence of fresh cues from Wall Street, which was closed overnight for the Independence Day holiday.

Investors are cautious as they look ahead to the release of the closely-watched U.S. jobs data for the month of June due later in the day, with forecasts suggesting an increase of 163,000 jobs. A weaker reading would lend further support to the argument for an interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The Australian market is edging higher after closing at multi-year highs in the previous session and in the absence of any cues from Wall Street. Investors are also cautious ahead of the release of the U.S. jobs data.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 5.70 points or 0.08 percent to 6,723.70, after rising to a high of 6,732.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 5.80 points or 0.09 percent to 6,806.70. Australian stocks closed at an eleven-and-a-half year high on Thursday.

Among the major miners, BHP Group is declining 0.6 percent, Fortescue Metals is lower by 0.5 percent and Rio Tinto is down 0.2 percent.

In the oil sector, Santos is rising 0.2 percent, Oil Search is adding 0.4 percent and Woodside Petroleum is higher by 0.5 percent.

The major banks are little changed. ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are edging up 0.1 percent each, while Westpac is lower by 0.1 percent. Commonwealth Bank is adding 0.6 percent.

Gold miners are mixed. Newcrest Mining is lower by 1 percent, while Evolution Mining is rising 0.7 percent.

AP Eagers said it has offered to sell its dealerships in Newcastle and Hunter Valley in a A$54 million deal to allay the competition watchdog ACCC's concerns over its proposed acquisition of rival car dealer Automotive Holdings. Shares of AP Eagers are advancing more than 1 percent.

On the economic front, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group revealed that the construction sector in Australia continued to contract in June, although at a slower rate, with a seasonally adjusted Performance of Construction Index score of 43.0. That's up from 40.4 in May, although it remains well below the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S dollar on Friday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7023, compared to $0.7034 on Thursday.

The Japanese market is declining in choppy trading in the absence of any fresh cues from Wall Street and on caution ahead of the release of U.S. jobs data later in the day.

Worries about rising trade tensions also weighed on the market after South Korea said it will not rule out direct countermeasures against Japan if Tokyo maintains its restrictions on export of chemicals vital to South Korea's technology sector for an extended period.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is losing 32.07 points or 0.15 percent to 21,670.38, after touching a high of 21,734.65 earlier. Japanese shares closed higher on Thursday.

The major exporters are mixed despite a slightly weaker yen. Sony is advancing almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is adding 0.3 percent, while Canon is down 0.5 percent and Panasonic is lower by 0.2 percent.

Among tech stocks, Advantest is higher by almost 2 percent and Tokyo Electron is advancing more than 1 percent.

In the oil sector, Inpex is declining more than 1 percent and Japan Petroleum is down 0.3 percent.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is declining more than 2 percent. In the auto space, Honda Motor is rising more than 1 percent and Toyota Motor is up 0.6 percent.

Among the major gainers, Seven & I Holdings is rising almost 4 percent after the company said it will compensate some 900 customers using its recently launched 7pay mobile payment service who lost a total of 55 million yen due to unauthorized access to their accounts.

Chiyoda Corp. is higher by more than 3 percent and Screen Holdings is higher by almost 3 percent.

On the flip side, Rakuten is declining more than 3 percent and Cyberagent is lower by more than 2 percent each.

In economic news, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that the average of household spending in Japan was up 4.0 percent on year, coming in at 300,901 yen. That beat expectations for an increase of 1.4 percent following the 1.3 percent gain in June.

Japan will also release preliminary May numbers for its leading and coincident indexes today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 107 yen range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan and Hong Kong are also modestly higher, while Shanghai, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are lower.

Overnight, the U.S. markets were closed for the Independence Day holiday.

The major European markets ended subdued on Thursday, with investors making some cautious moves. Germany's DAX ended 0.11 percent up and France's CAC 40 edged up 0.03 percent, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 ended lower by 0.08 percent.

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