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Asian shares edge up, dollar awaits US jobs report

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Asian shares edged higher in early trade on Friday, while the dollar marked time ahead of the key US jobs report later in the session that could help it retake ground lost to the euro overnight.

[TOKYO] Asian shares edged higher in early trade on Friday, while the dollar marked time ahead of the key US jobs report later in the session that could help it retake ground lost to the euro overnight.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up about 0.1 per cent, but on track for a weekly loss of 0.7 per cent. Japan's Nikkei stock average slipped 0.4 per cent, but was on track for a weekly gain of around 2 per cent.

Major Wall Street indexes inched down on Thursday, but the Dow Jones industrial average briefly rose to set a record intraday high.

The US nonfarm payrolls report is expected to show that employers added 230,000 new jobs last month, and the unemployment rate is seen remaining unchanged at 5.8 per cent, according to analysts polled by Reuters. The figures are scheduled for release at 1330 GMT. "The US dollar has struggled to rally even on good US data recently so this could be the case again. Yet the multi-day/week outlook for USD remains positive," Sean Callow, a currency strategist at Westpac, said in a note.

The dollar gave up ground against the euro on Thursday, after first ascending to a two-year peak of US$1.2279, when the European Central Bank failed to detail any expansion of its stimulus program.

But additional actions are still expected next year. In his clearest language yet, ECB President Mario Draghi underlined the central bank's commitment to supporting the euro zone economy. Draghi also made the case for buying assets such as state bonds, a step opposed by Germany.

The ECB's lack of immediate action put a floor under the single currency and gave investors a reason to trim their short positions, sending the euro as high as US$1.2457. It was last at US$1.2383, steady on the day.

The greenback was flat against the yen at 119.79 yen after breaking above the 120-yen level on Thursday for the first time in over seven years, rising as high as 120.25.

Oil remained under pressure after Saudi Arabia announced deep cuts on Thursday to the prices it charges its Asian and US buyers, a week after refusing to support output cuts championed by some members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

US crude was down about 0.2 per cent at US$66.65 a barrel.

REUTERS