Asian shares mostly up ahead of US jobs report

HONG KONG - Asian markets mostly rose on bargain-buying Thursday but sentiment remains weak following a recent global sell-off, with investors sidelined before the release of US government jobs data.

Wall Street provided a tepid lead and the dollar was slightly lower against the yen after a private US jobs report proved inconclusive.

Tokyo, which spent most of the day in positive territory, surrendered in late trade to close down 0.18 per cent, or 25.26 points, at 14,155.12.

However, Sydney rose 1.21 per cent, or 61.1 points, to 5,131.4 and Seoul added 0.88 per cent, or 16.57 points, to 1,907.89. Hong Kong climbed 0.72 per cent, or 153.75 points, to end at 21,423.13.

Shanghai and Wellington were closed for public holidays.

The turmoil of the past week has subsided briefly before the non-farm payrolls figure due on Friday, which will give traders a better handle on the state of the US economy.

"The tension in the buildup to Friday's US non-farm payroll data is heavy with the increased uncertainty over where the US economy is headed," said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager of equities at SMBC Nikko Securities.

World markets were sent into a tailspin last week on fears for the global economy, fuelled by downbeat US and Chinese manufacturing data as well as the Federal Reserve's decision to further reduce its stimulus programme.

Most economists tip further selling if Friday's employment data misses expectations.

A report by payrolls firm ADP on Wednesday showed the US private sector added 175,000 jobs in January, slightly below the forecast 178,000.

However, analysts said the figures may have been skewed by the severe cold weather over the past few weeks.

On Wall Street the Dow ended flat, the S&P 500 dipped 0.20 per cent and the Nasdaq lost 0.50 per cent

"There is just enough uncertainty to make players feel uncomfortable about committing too strongly to stocks right now, despite the recent market falls," Chibagin Asset Management general manager Yoshihiro Okumura told Dow Jones Newswires.

"Things could change on a dime and nobody wants to get caught in another rout if the numbers disappoint."

The dollar declined only slightly after suffering selling pressure earlier in the week. The greenback was at 101.45 yen in Tokyo afternoon trade compared with 101.49 yen in New York Wednesday.

The euro bought $1.3523 and 137.18 yen against $1.3536 and 137.38 yen. Oil prices rose. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery advanced 26 cents to $97.64 in late trade, while Brent North Sea crude for March was up 12 cents at $106.37.

Gold fetched $1,258.10 an ounce at 0810 GMT compared with $1,256.99 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

- Taipei rose 0.56 per cent, or 46.53 points, to 8,311.01.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co closed up 1.49 per cent at Tw$102.0 while Hon Hai Precision added 0.74 per cent to Tw$81.9.

- Manila edged up 0.10 per cent, or 6.18 points, to 5,914.59.

Alliance Global rose 1.31 per cent to 27 pesos while SM Prime Holdings gained 0.14 per cent to 14.56 pesos.