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Asia: Stocks swing before China leaders gather, US jobs data

Friday, March 4, 2016 - 09:08

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[SYDNEY] Asian stocks swung, with the regional index on course for its biggest three-week advance since 2009, ahead of a meeting of Chinese leaders and a monthly US jobs report.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.2 per cent to 125.26 as of 9:07 am in Tokyo, swinging from a 0.1 per cent gain. The gauge has surged 4.7 per cent this week, extending a rally from this year's low in February to 11 per cent.

Energy shares in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index erased 2016 declines Thursday as crude oil settled near an eight-week high. A report showed the number of weekly claims for unemployment benefits remained consistent with a steady labor market, before the government's monthly jobs data on Friday.

"US data continues to shine, oil continues to firm and risk appetite is coming back into all aspects of the markets," said Angus Nicholson, market analyst at IG Ltd. in Melbourne.

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"Chinese markets look to open in positive territory, and no doubt expectations will be quite high for an announcement of significant further fiscal spending from China's National Party Congress over the weekend."

Japan's Topix index fell 0.5 per cent. The gauge is still headed for a third straight weekly gain, with an advance of 3.9 per cent. South Korea's Kospi index slipped 0.2 per cent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.2 per cent. New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 Index added 0.7 per cent.

Futures on the Hang Seng Index rose 0.4 per cent and contracts on the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index gained 0.5 per cent. The Shanghai Composite Index completed its biggest three-day gain since November on continued optimism policy makers will unveil more measures to boost growth at this week's legislative meetings.

The People's Bank of China this week lowered lenders' required reserve ratio by 0.5 per cent age point in an effort to bolster the economy. The Shanghai Composite Index is still the worst performer among global benchmark indexes, on concern a weaker yuan will spur capital outflows and slowing economic growth will hurt earnings.

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