Japan Stocks Lead Gains in Asia Ahead of US Payrolls Report

Japanese equities led the gains in Asia on the final trading day of the week on optimism that January’s U.S. jobs report could restore confidence in global markets.

A positive handover from Wall Street helped to lift sentiment. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 posted their biggest one-day percentage gains of the year after data showed unemployment claims fell more than expected last week, indicating an improving U.S. labor market a day ahead of January’s payrolls report.

“Given tapering now seems to be on a set course, it is important to see U.S. jobs stabilizing to help underpin confidence. Eight out of the last nine payrolls releases have seen U.S. equities gain ground and if that counts for anything we could be in for an extension of gains,” said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG in a note.








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Nikkei jumps 2.1%

Japan’s benchmark index closed above its 200-day simple moving average (SMA) for the first time in four days as the yen rose to 102 per dollar, weakening from Tuesday’s 11-week high of 100.76. For the week however, the Nikkei was the region’s worst performing index with losses of 3 percent.

Sony rose over 4 percent following Thursday’s raft of restructuring measures, including spinning off its TV manufacturing business and cutting around 5,000 jobs.

Power stocks were among some of the top performers; Tokyo Electric Powerrallied 11 percent while Kansai Electric Power increased over 6 percent.

Sentiment also got a lift after data showed Japanese investors accelerated their pace of foreign bond sales to the most in four months last week, a sign that traders said reflects their confidence in the global economy despite the recent selloff in emerging markets.

Shanghai 0.5% higher

Mainland shares played catch-up with the region following a week-long Lunar New Year holiday but weak economic data capped gains. Data from HSBC showedgrowth in the services sector fell to a near two-and-a-half-year low in January, the latest piece of data to confirm a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy.

A rise in money market rates also dampened sentiment as the benchmark 7-day repo rate rose to 5.6 percent. As a result, banks fell across the board; Minsheng Bank lost over 1 percent while Bank of China declined 0.8 percent.

In Hong Kong, Lenovo rallied 1.5 percent after the Hong Kong stock exchange reported that Google bought a 5.9 percent stake in the firm, valued around $750 million.

Emerging markets gain

In the Philippines, the benchmark PSE indexrallied 1.6 percent after the central bank left interest rates unchanged at Thursday’s policy meeting. Speaking to CNBC, the central bank governor said rates would remain on hold as long as inflation remains manageable.

Indian shares rose 0.32 percent, hitting a one-week high, after foreign investors snapped their five-day selling streak. Later in the day, the government is expected to announce its first official forecast of economic growth in the year to March 31.

Sydney 0.7% higher

Australia’s benchmark S&P ASX 200 extended gains after rallying over 1 percent on Thursday, while the Australian dollar traded within sight of 90 U.S. cents after the Reserve Bank of Australia raised its GDP forecast for 2014 and reiterated that rates would remain at 2.5 percent for a while in its monetary policy statement.

Financials lent support with Westpac and Macquarie leading gains by over 1 percent each.

Aurora Oil and Gas soared 56 percent after being acquired by Canadian oil producer Baytex Energy for $2.4 billion. The deal boosted other energy producers;AWE rose over 7 percent while Karoon Gas added 6 percent.

News Corp surged 8.2 percent after its second-quarter profits beat analyst expectations.

Kospi gains 0.7%

South Korea’s benchmark index posted a third straight session of gains after data showed foreign investors were net buyers of domestic shares for the first time in five sessions.

State-run energy firms Korea Electric Power and Korea Gas jumped 3 and 2 percent, respectively, after revealing plans to meet the government’s aim for state-run firms to reduce debt by 2017.

Ssangyong Motor rallied 1.3 percent after announcing it will launch a jointly developed engine with India’s Mahindra and Mahindra.

Source: CNBC