Asian Shares Mixed As Investors Await U.S. Jobs Data

Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday as investors adopted a cautious approach ahead of the monthly U.S. jobs report scheduled for release on Friday, which could offer cues on the economic recovery and the interest rate outlook.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index dropped 12.93 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,584.21 after a private survey showed that services activity growth slowed in May.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slumped 331.59 points, or 1.1 percent, to 28,966.03 as investors weighed inflation concerns.

Japanese shares rose as optimism over the nation’s vaccine rollout helped investors shrug off weak services sector data, with activity contracting for the 16th consecutive month.

The Nikkei 225 Index rose 111.97 points, or 0.4 percent, to 29,058.11, while the broader Topix closed 0.8 percent higher at 1,958.70, its highest closing level since April 19.

Reopening bets boosted train operators and beer makers. Railway companies extended gains from the previous session, with East Japan Railway climbing 3.4 percent and Central Japan Railway adding 2.3 percent. Beverage company Kirin Holdings surged 4.2 percent and Asahi Group Holdings gained 2.3 percent.

Automakers Honda Motor and Toyota Motor rose about 2 percent, while Fast Retailing, the operator of the Uniqlo casual clothing chain, gave up 4.1 percent, after reporting a decrease in domestic sales for May.

Australian markets hit a record high for the second straight day after new figures showed Australia’s economy has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. Investors also cheered positive data on the country’s construction and services sectors.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 42.30 points, or 0.6 percent, to 7,260.10, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 41.80 points, or 0.6 percent, at 7,510.70.

Energy stocks outperformed as oil prices surged to their highest level in over two years. Santos, Oil Search, Beach Energy and Origin Energy surged 4-6 percent.

The big four banks rose between 0.9 percent and 1.5 percent. Miners ended broadly higher, with Mineral Resources rallying more than 2 percent as iron ore prices jumped on hopes of easing production curbs for steel products.

Sezzle soared 22.7 percent after it signed a three-year agreement with retail giant Target to provide buy now, pay later (BNPL) services in-store and online.

Seoul stocks rose for the fifth straight session as inflation fears ebbed. The benchmark Kospi gained 23.20 points, or 0.7 percent, to settle at 3,247.43, bolstered by strong foreign and institutional buying.

Samsung Electronics jumped 2.5 percent and No. 2 chipmaker SK Hynix advanced 2.4 percent on expectations of strong second quarter earnings.

New Zealand shares ended marginally lower amid concerns that the country’s borders might remain closed longer than expected. The benchmark NZX 50 Index slipped 10.07 points to settle at 12,429.98, giving up early gains.

Jewelry chain Michael Hill International climbed 3.5 percent after business veteran Rob Fyfe was appointed as its new chairman. NZ King Salmon Investments lost 5 percent after a disappointing trading update.

The major U.S. averages all inched up around 0.1 percent overnight, as inflation worries persisted and the Fed’s Beige Book showed economic growth increased at a “moderate pace” from early April to late May.

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