Asian stocks drift as US jobs report, ECB awaited

Associated Press

MUMBAI, India (AP) — Asian stock markets drifted lower Wednesday, following the lead of Wall Street as investors awaited confirmation of new stimulus from the European Central Bank and a crucial U.S. jobs report.

Japan's Nikkei 225 edged up 0.1 percent to 15,047.10 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.6 percent to 23,161.43. The Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.9 percent to 2,114.16 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.3 percent to 5,462.00.

Markets in Taiwan, Thailand and India rose while South Korean markets were closed for regional elections.

Investors have largely been in wait-and-see mode this week amid expectations of stronger employment growth in the U.S. and an interest rate cut along with other measures for the 18-country eurozone economy. Figures earlier this week showed that inflation in the eurozone fell to 0.5 percent in May, below the 2 percent target and suggesting chronically weak demand.

"With inflation trending down faster than anticipated, the risks of a potential deflationary situation are hard to dismiss," DBS Group said in research report.

In Europe on Tuesday, Germany's DAX closed down 0.3 percent at 9,919.74 and the CAC-40 in France also fell 0.3 percent to 4,503.69. Britain's FTSE 100 ended 0.4 percent lower at 6,836.30.

The U.S. payrolls report due Friday is expected to show the American economy added 220,000 jobs in May, according to a survey of analysts by financial data provider FactSet.

"The market certainly seems to be pricing in a strong set of data from the U.S. this week, which puts risk assets in an interesting position," said Stan Shamu, a market strategist at IG.

On Wall Street, the main U.S. the main stock markets gave up ground after hitting record highs in the previous two trading sessions.

The Standard & Poor's 500 edged down less than a point to close at 1,924.214 on Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.1 percent to 16,722.34 and the Nasdaq composite slipped by 0.1 percent to 4,234.08.

Benchmark U.S. crude for July delivery was up 12 cents to $102.78 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 19 cents to close Tuesday $102.66.

In currencies, the euro slipped to $1.3612 from $1.3620 late Tuesday. The dollar rose to 102.69 yen from 102.54 yen.

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