KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Asian stock markets were mostly higher Friday, mirroring gains on Wall Street in anticipation of a positive U.S. jobs report for January.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index
surged 1.6 percent to 14,382.77 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.9 percent to
21,614.36. South Korea's Kospi climbed 0.4 percent to 1,915.16 and Australia's
S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.6 percent to 5,160.10.
China's Shanghai Composite, which
reopened after a long Lunar New Year holiday, eased 0.5 percent to 2,023.09.
Investors are hoping for a robust jobs
report after the U.S. economy added a disappointing 74,000 jobs in December.
That was the fewest in three years and far below the average of 214,000 added
in the previous four months.
The Labor Department earlier this week
said fewer people sought unemployment benefits last week while a private survey reported positive data on U.S. hiring.
Hopes of a good January report bolstered the Dow Jones industrial
average and the S&P 500 index, which each closed up 1.2 percent on
Thursday, their largest single-day increase since Dec. 18.
"The payroll number will gather
most of the limelight today, especially after December's poor release,"
Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a commentary.
Evidence of healthy U.S. job growth
would suggest that the world's biggest economy is still expanding solidly
enough to support global growth amid growing fears of a slowdown.
DBS Vickers in Hong Kong said market
consensus was for an 180,000 gain in January but warned it doesn't really show
an improvement. At this number, it would leave the 3-month average payrolls at
165,000, which is 17,000 less than six months ago.
"Everyone, including DBS, expects
January payrolls will be back to normal. That doesn't mean good. And it doesn't
mean that things are getting better," it said in a commentary.
After a rocky start to the week, U.S.
stocks roared back on Thursday, giving major stock indexes their biggest gain
of the year.
The Dow Jones industrial average
jumped 188.30 points, or 1.2 percent, to close at 15,628.53. The Standard &
Poor's 500 rose 21.79 points, also 1.2 percent, to 1,773.43. Both indexes were
still down about half a percent for the week following a steep drop on Monday.
The Nasdaq composite gained 45 points, or 1.1 percent, to 4,057.12.
Benchmark U.S. oil for March delivery
was down 20 cents to $97.64 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile
Exchange. The contract rose 46 cents to close at $97.84 Thursday.
The euro was unchanged at $1.3591 from
late Thursday. The dollar inched down to 102.05 yen from 102.08 yen.