Friday March 1st, 2024 10:03AM

Stock market today: Asian shares are mostly higher ahead of a key US jobs report

By The Associated Press

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian shares were mostly higher on Friday ahead of a U.S. government jobs report, after Wall Street rose Thursday to snap its first three-day losing streak since Halloween.

U.S. futures were lower and oil prices gained more than $1.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index shed 1.8% to 32,271.90, as investors speculated that the Bank of Japan may end its negative interest rate policy.

Before meeting Thursday with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, BOJ Gov. Kazuo Ueda told parliament the central bank would face an “even more challenging” situation at the year's end and in early 2024. On Friday, the U.S. dollar rose to 144.23 Japanese yen from 144.12 yen. It was trading above 150 yen until mid-November.

Updated data released on Friday showed Japan’s economy shrank by 2.9% year-on-year in the July-September quarter, worse than estimated earlier.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.1% to 16,367.47 and the Shanghai Composite index was up 0.2% at 2,973.45. The Kospi in Seoul gained 1.1% to 2,519.42. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was 0.3% higher at 7194.90. India’s Sensex added 0.4% after the central bank announced it was keeping its key interest rate unchanged. Bangkok's SET gained 0.3%.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 climbed 0.8% to 4,585.59. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.2% to 36,117.38, and the Nasdaq composite jumped 1.4% to 14,339.99.

Big Tech stocks helped power the market higher, led by a 5.3% leap for Google’s parent company, Alphabet. They’re Wall Street’s most influential stocks because of their massive size, and they have been on huge tears so far this year.

Wall Street has rallied toward its best level since March 2022 largely on hopes that the Federal Reserve is finally done raising interest rates, which are meant to get high inflation under control. Investors are watching keenly for Friday's U.S. jobs report.

The Federal Reserve wants to see the job market slow by just the right amount. Too much weakness would mean people out of work and a possible recession, but too much strength could add upward pressure on inflation.

A report on Thursday said that slightly more U.S workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, though the number is not alarmingly high and hit economists’ expectations exactly.

Hopes for easier rates help all kinds of investments, particularly those seen as the most expensive or promising big growth far in the future. That’s helped Big Tech stocks make huge gains this year.

Alphabet’s jump on Thursday brought its gain for the year so far to just over 55%. On Wednesday, it announced the launch of its Gemini artificial intelligence model. Alphabet was the single strongest force pushing the S&P 500 upward, but Apple, Amazon and Nvidia all also rose at least 1%.

Another winner was JetBlue Airways, which climbed 15.2% after it said it may report better results for the final three months of the year than it earlier expected. It also slightly lowered the top end of its forecast for fuel costs during the end of 2023.

On the losing end of Wall Street, C3.ai tumbled 10.8% after reporting weaker revenue for the latest quarter than analysts expected.

Crude oil prices have been falling recently amid worries that global demand may fall short of available supplies. But they reversed their decline on Friday. The price for a barrel of benchmark U.S. crude gained $1.43 to $70.77. It lost 4 cents to settle at $69.34 on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained $1.49 to $75.54 per barrel.

The euro slipped to $1.0785 from $1.0793.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Careers, AP Business - Financial Markets
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