Asia markets lose ground ahead of US data, Singapore shares edge downward

Asia markets lose ground ahead of US data, Singapore shares edge downward

Asian shares opened lower on Friday after Wall Street ended mixed, as investors await closely watched April US non-farm payroll numbers.

Singapore's Straits Times Index opened lower again, falling 0.64 per cent to 2,750.16, The Business Times reported.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 lost 1.01 per cent in early Asian trade, giving back gains from Thursday's session, weighed heavily by the energy subindex, down 1.54 per cent, while the financials subindex shed 1.17 per cent.

Japan's Nikkei 225 was down 0.34 per cent, after the market returned from a three-day holiday. On Monday, the benchmark index closed down 3.1 per cent.

The US dollar/Japanese yen currency pair was at 107.36 at 08:24 a.m. HK/SIN time, down from levels over 111.50 last week. The currency pair this week tapped its lowest levels since October 2014, when the Bank of Japan launched its second massive round of quantitative easing. The yen is generally seen as a safe haven currency.

Markets in South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand are shut for public holidays.

"Markets will be slightly more nervous around the Friday release of the non-farm payrolls number (expected at 200,000) after ADP employment growth came in at 154,000, well below the market consensus of 195,000," said Angus Nicholson, market analyst at IG, in a Thursday note.

The US payrolls number will likely influence expectations of whether the Federal Reserve will pull the trigger on an interest rate hike in June.

The US dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, continued to rise. At 6:38 a.m. SIN/HK, it stood at 93.761, after dipping under 92 earlier this week to test the lowest levels since January 2015.

IG's Nicholson said the greenback's moves at this point could be key for the direction of markets.

"Markets at the moment at increasingly looking like they may be ready to roll over," he said in a Friday note. "The two decisive factors that could cause an equity market sell-off would be a sustained rally in the US dollar and a sell-off in oil prices, both of which have usually induced weakness in equities of late."

Crude oil gained on Thursday, after a wildfire in Alberta, Canada, appears set to cut oil output. US crude futures rose 1.2 per cent, settling at US$44.32 (S$60.29) a barrel in Thursday's US session, while Brent futures settled up 0.9 per cent, or 39 cents at US$45.01.

Energy shares were lower in Australia, with Origin Energy down 0.11 per cent and Santos lower by 0.12 per cent.

Major resource producers were lower to flat, with Rio Tinto down 0.36 per cent, while Fortescue Metals and BHP Billiton were nearly unchanged.

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of Australia will issue a statement on Friday about its surprise monetary policy decision on Wednesday to cut rates by 25 basis points.

In the US on Thursday, the Nasdaq composite finished down 0.18 per cent. The Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 closed nearly flat.

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