Asian shares tread cautiously ahead of U.S. payrolls


By Lisa Twaronite

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares edged higher in early trade on Friday and oil prices continued to rebound, even as investors remained wary ahead of the key U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for January later in the session.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was up about 0.1 percent. Japan’s Nikkei stock average .N225 percent rose 1 percent in early trade.

On Wall Street on Thursday, major indexes all ended with gains of 1 percent or more, and a corresponding rise in U.S. Treasury yields underpinned the U.S. dollar’s lift against rivals.

Economists polled by Reuters expected U.S. employers to add 234,000 workers in January, below December’s increase of 252,000. The jobless rate was expected to remain at a 6-1/2 year low of 5.6 percent, while average hourly earnings was estimated to show a rise of 0.3 percent following the previous month’s surprise 0.2 percent drop. [ECONUS]

A spate of mixed U.S. data on Thursday on jobless claims, productivity and the trade balance gave investors few clues on the overall growth outlook, and the timing of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s move to raise interest rates which some believe could be as early as this summer.

“If payrolls rise less than 200k, we could see a stronger rally in EUR/USD and a steeper decline in USD/JPY because a weak report would lead investors to think that the Federal Reserve will be more patient with raising interest rates,” said Kathy Lien, managing director at BK Asset Management in New York.

“A stronger report however would be extremely positive for the greenback by hardening expectations for a 2015 rate increase,” she added.

The dollar was steady on the day against the yen at 117.48 JPY=EBS, while the euro inched down 0.1 percent against the dollar on the day to EUR=EBS to $1.1466, after marking sharp rises overnight on speculation the Swiss central bank was buying euros to weaken the franc.

The Swiss government warned on Thursday that a soaring franc meant economic growth would be weaker than previously expected.

Currency investors warily watched developments in Greece, where Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras pledged on Thursday to “put an end once and for all” to the European Union’s austerity policies and to bargain hard for a new deal for Greece, after the European Central Bank decided to stop accepting Greek bonds as collateral to raise cash.

The ECB’s decision heightened fears about the fallout on Greece’s financial system as well as the possibility that the country might leave the euro zone.

Rising Treasury yields helped support appeal for the greenback, with the benchmark 10-year yield US10YT=RR rising to 1.8204 percent in Asia from its U.S. close of 1.815 percent on Thursday.

U.S. crude CLc1 added about 0.7 percent to $50.83 a barrel, after surging more than 4 percent in the previous session as escalating conflict in producer Libya and an expected boost in oil demand following China’s central bank easing helped the market rebound from a sharp rout.

(Editing by Eric Meijer)


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