Asian shares mostly up, reverse morning losses

AP and AFP

BANGKOK/HONG KONG–Global stocks were mostly higher Friday as investors looked ahead to U.S. data on jobs and factory output, while Hong Kong rose despite pro-democracy protests.

France’s CAC-40 added 0.5 percent to 4,264.57 points while London’s FTSE 100 shed 1.7 percent to 6,446.39. German markets were closed for a holiday. Wall Street looked set for a strong opening, with futures for the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 both up 0.4 percent in pre-market trading. On Thursday, both were unchanged after three days of losses.

Markets were disappointed after the European Central Bank said it will buy bonds to stimulate demand but failed to announce a size for the program or purchases of sovereign debt. Bank president Mario Draghi said the programs should help the ECB achieve its price stability target. Bond traders who bet on sovereign debt buying unwound their positions. Germany’s Dax index lost 2 percent and France’s CAC-40 fell 2.8 percent.

Asian markets mostly rose Friday ahead of a key US jobs report, while Hong Kong reversed morning losses as the financial hub’s leaders prepare to meet pro-democracy protestors who have closed parts of the city for the past week. The dollar ticked up against the yen after sinking on Thursday from a six-year high above 110 yen while the euro pared initial gains that came after the European Central Bank refrained from further easing monetary policy. Hong Kong, which had been closed for two consecutive public holidays, ended 0.64 percent, or 147.49 points, higher at 23,080.47 after opening more than one percent lower Friday. However, it is still well down for the week after losing more than three percent over Monday and Tuesday. Tokyo ended a see-saw day 0.30 percent higher, adding 46.66 points to 15,708.65, Sydney rose 0.39 percent, or 20.50 points, to 5,318.2. Shanghai, Mumbai and Seoul were closed for holidays. As the demonstrations in Hong Kong moved into a sixth day its Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying refused demands to resign and held out the hope of compromise by saying he will talk to protest leaders. He has appointed his deputy to sit down with a prominent students’ group that has been at the vanguard of the protests, although there was no sign of the talks beginning by Friday afternoon.

With shares having lost around 10 percent since hitting their 2014 high at the start of September investors took the opportunity to pick up some bargains. Eyes Turn to US Jobs Data Wall Street’s three main indexes were soft as investors sat back ahead of the release of a key U.S. jobs report later in the day, which could provide a clearer handle of the Federal Reserve’s plans for interest rates. Japan’s Nikkei pared initial losses as the yen weakened slightly against the dollar. The greenback — which broke 110 yen Wednesday for the first time in more than six years — fetched 108.85 yen Friday, against 108.42 yen in New York. “Tonight’s U.S. payrolls data will be important; a strong labor report could push the dollar back up,” Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities told Dow Jones Newswires. An ECB decision to stand firm on its monetary policy lifted the euro, which earlier in the week had fallen below US$1.26 for the first time since September 2012. The bank held rates at record lows and said it would start buying covered bond and asset-backed securities in a bid to pump money into the eurozone economy and fan inflation. In early Tokyo trade the euro bought US$1.2640 and 137.56 yen against US$1.2667 and 137.34 yen. Gold was at US$1,207.74 an ounce against US$1,213.50 late Thursday.