Asian stocks fell ahead of a closely watched US payrolls report as stronger economic data fueled bets the US Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this year.
US jobless claims fell to the second-lowest level since 1973, strengthening the case for the Fed to raise interest rates.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 0.3 percent to 140.2 as of 4:11pm in Hong Kong, paring its weekly gain.
The index rose 8.4 percent last quarter, its largest such advance since early 2012. It is up 6.2 percent this year, helped by the recovery in oil after a turbulent start to the year.
Shares in Taiwan closed slightly lower on Friday on thin trading as market sentiment turned cautious ahead of the US payrolls report.
While the broader market ended in negative territory, select large-cap stocks, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), proved resilient, preventing the weighted index from taking a bigger tumble, dealers said.
The weighted index on the Taiwan Stock Exchange closed down 18.5 points, or 0.2 percent, at 9,265.81, on turnover of NT$60.76 billion (US$1.93 billion), up from 9,166.85 the previous Friday.
The market opened up 5.35 points and moved slightly higher to the day’s high on follow-through buying from a session earlier before selling emerged, dealers said.
The weakness continued until the end of the session, while certain market heavyweights that moved higher served as anchors that stabilized the broader market, especially late in the trading session, they added.
“With the weighted index moving toward the 9,300-point mark, the nearest technical barrier for the market, it was no surprise that many investors preferred to stay on the sidelines for the time being,” Ta Ching Securities Co (大慶證券) analyst Andy Hsu (許博傑) said.
“More importantly, trading interest was limited as investors waited for the release of the US jobs data for September later in the day, at a time when worries over a rate hike by the Fed are on the rise,” Hsu said.
Concerns over a rate hike in December were fueled by comments made by several Fed officials, including Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, who pointed to a growing need for the US central bank to tighten its monetary policy, Hsu said.
“Fortunately, TSMC and some other big players moved higher, in particular late in the trading session, which helped the broader market offset selling to some extent, but the low trading volume means it will not be easy for the index to move above 9,300 points any time soon,” he said.
TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, rose 0.27 percent to close at the day’s high of NT$188, off an early low of NT$186, with 15 million shares changing hands.
Buying in TSMC reflected optimism toward its sales figures for the third quarter as investors hope the chipmaker, which supplies A10 processors for the latest iPhone models, will benefit from the launch of Apple’s new phones last month.
Among other large-cap stocks that gained ground, Formosa Plastics Corp (台灣塑膠) rose 0.51 percent to close at NT$79.5 after hitting a low of NT$78.8, while Nan Ya Plastics Corp (南亞塑膠) gained 0.64 percent to close at NT$63, off an early low of NT$62.3.
In the financial sector, which suffered relative heavy selling during the session and closed down 0.48 percent, Fubon Financial Holding Co (富邦金控) lost 1.2 percent to close at NT$45.3, while E.Sun Financial Holding Co (玉山金控) closed unchanged at NT$18.15.
Japan’s TOPIX closed 0.3 percent lower after rising 2.4 percent over the previous four days before a holiday tomorrow.
Seven & i Holdings Co fell the most in three months after it unveiled a restructuring plan to divest struggling department stores and set up a real-estate division.
South Korea’s KOSPI slid 0.6 percent, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.3 percent and New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 Index dropped to a two-month low.
Singapore’s Straits Times Index declined 0.5 percent, while equity gauges in Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea fell at least 0.6 percent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped 0.4 percent before a holiday tomorrow, paring its weekly advance to 2.4 percent as energy companies outperformed the rest this week after oil rallied on hopes that a global glut would subside amid planned output cuts by OPEC.
China’s markets are to resume trading tomorrow after a week-long break.
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