Asian markets up on Friday ahead of US jobs data

AFP , HONG KONG

Sun, Sep 03, 2006 - Page 10

Asian stocks closed mostly higher on Friday but gains were capped by limited profit-taking ahead of the release of key US employment data due out later in the day.

Dealers said recent rallies on the prospect the US Federal Reserve will leave interest rates unchanged when it next meets had provided investors with an excuse to book some profits.

This coupled with investors sidelined amid anxieties over upcoming US jobs data, which should provide further leads on the extent of a US economic slow down, limited broader gains.

As a result Tokyo closed flat, while mild gains were registered in Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Manila, Wellington and Kuala Lumpur which was also buoyed by company tax cuts announced in the government's latest budget.

Mutual funds supported a solid finish in Mumbai while Bangkok and Jakarta were sharply higher on improved inflation numbers.

Shanghai and Sydney were lower as profit taking won out on the day.

Sun Hung Kai Properties rose 0.30 to 85.10.

Taipei

Share prices closed 0.60 percent higher as select large-cap stocks attracted interest after robust earnings.

Dealers said gains posted by the big firms helped the benchmark index stay in positive territory, offsetting falls in several smaller companies as investors digested recent results announcements.

The weighted index was up 39.69 points at 6,651.46, off a high of 6,658.13 and a low of 6,625.23, on turnover of NT$73.01 billion (US$2.22 billion).

"Select big technology companies posted upbeat earnings and received a warm response from investors," said Kevin Chung (鐘國忠), a deputy manager with Jih Sun Securities Investment Consulting Co (日盛投顧).

"But many small firms suffered from disappointing results," he added.

The light turnover indicates the sidelined mood of investors, he said, adding that "profit-taking next week cannot be ruled out following the recent rebound."

Companies' sales last month, prospects for the current quarter and domestic political uncertainties will be among variables affecting the local bourse next week, Chung said.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電) gained NT$0.70 to NT$58.80.

Tokyo

Share prices closed little changed as investors hesitated to take positions ahead of a key US employment report due later in the day that could underscore slowing US economic growth.

Dealers said many opted to lock in gains after Thursday's powerful rally above the symbolic 16,000 points level.

The Nikkei-225 index lost 6.51 points to 16,134.25. Volume declined to 1.50 billion shares from 1.66 billion on Thursday.

"Participants are nervously waiting for the latest non-farm payrolls data," said SBI Securities market analyst Hideyuki Suzuki.

The figures were expected to provide investors with further evidence about whether the US, Japan's major trading partner, has slowed enough to ward off further increases in interest rates there.

"A wait-and-see mood was evident ... as participants also want to see how the US market reacts to the latest non-farm payrolls data, given the fact that there are no strong domestic leads to trade on," Suzuki said.

Select makers of chips and computers were down on concerns about a possible weakening of US consumer spending, dealers said.

Toshiba edged down ¥8 or 1.0 percent to ¥828.

Seoul

Share prices closed 0.29 percent higher on institutional interest as foreign investors eased off on sell orders.

The KOSPI index closed up 3.93 points at 1,356.67. Volume was 206 million shares worth 2.5 trillion won (US$2.6 billion).

"The market firmed above the 120-day moving average of 1,350 points with increased volume and this bodes well for September," Shinyoung Securities analyst Lee Seung-woo said.

SK Telecom gained 4,000 won to 191,000.

Hong Kong

Share prices closed 0.18 percent higher on sustained interest in property on hopes the US Federal Reserve will keep interest rates unchanged at its next policy meeting.

Dealers said recent economic data indicating a slowdown in US growth should prompt the Fed to stay on hold and added US jobs data for last month to be released later on Friday may also build the case for such a move.

Continued interest in China Mobile also supported the market.

The Hang Seng Index closed up 31.45 points at 17,423.72. Turn-over was HK$27.39 billion (US$3.5 billion).

"Buying interest in properties was sustained because some investors are hopeful that jobs data to be released in the US tonight will continue to support the Fed's pause" in interest rate increases, said Castor Pang, strategist at Sun Hung Kai Financial Group.

Shanghai

Share prices closed 1.33 percent lower as investors took profits in banks and telecom stocks after recent gains.

Dealers said the profit-taking was expected and that Friday's losses did not signal a dip in market sentiment, given hopes for fresh fund flows that could help push the market higher next week.

Stocks managed to finish ahead for the week, in part due to a stronger yuan which chalked up three consecutive record finishes although the unit was slightly easier on Friday.

The Shanghai A-share Index lost 23.16 points to 1,720.55 on turnover of 19.64 billion yuan (US$2.46 billion) while the Shenzhen A-share Index was down 6.22 points or 1.42 percent at 432.34 on turnover of 12.04 billion yuan.