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Asia: Shares catch gloomy mood from Wall Street


[TOKYO] Asian shares edged down in early trading on Friday, on track for a weekly loss, while US jobs data underpinned the dollar as it bolstered bets that the US. Federal Reserve is on track to hike interest rates later this year.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down about 0.2 per cent in early trading, on course for a weekly loss over one per cent.

Japan's Nikkei stock index dipped 0.3 per cent.

On tap for investors is the Markit Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), which will provide the latest clue to the health of the world's second-largest economy. "The consensus forecast is for a move higher, from 49.4 to 49.7. As an activity index, it should be more resilient than recent sentiment indicators, which have been affected by the volatility in equities," Sean Callow, senior strategist at Westpac, said in a note.

While Beijing's support steps appear to have halted this month's stock market rout, some fear that fragile investor sentiment could drag on the financial services sector and weigh down the economy in the coming months.

China looks set to further reduce interest rates and the amount of cash its banks must hold as reserves to try to keep its economy growing at seven per cent this year, which would be the slowest pace in a quarter of a century, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday.

On Wall Street overnight, downbeat corporate earnings reports sent US equities lower, with all three major US indexes logging solid losses.

Better-than-expected US jobless claims gave US Treasury yields a boost, adding to the dollar's appeal, though yields came back down as risk appetite evaporated in the face of Wall Street's losses.

The benchmark US 10-year yield was at 2.276 per cent in Asian trading, compared to its US close of 2.278 per cent on Thursday.

The weekly employment data showed that initial jobless claims declined 26,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 255,000, the lowest since November 1973.

Upbeat employment and housing data this week have backed the view that the US central bank will raise interest rates, perhaps as early as September, which has underpinned the greenback.

The euro was last up about 0.1 per cent on the day at US$1.0991 , after gaining in the previous session, as the Greek parliament approved a second set of reforms required to start negotiations with lenders in a bid to avert bankruptcy.

The dollar was steady on the day at 123.93 yen. The Japanese currency was briefly on the defensive on Thursday after the International Monetary Fund warned Japan to avoid over-reliance on a weak currency to reflate its economy.

Spot gold was steady on the day at US$1,090.55 an ounce, but on track for a weekly loss of nearly 4 percent, after marking its deepest one-day loss in nearly two years on Monday.

Crude oil futures rebounded from multi-month lows recorded overnight, with US crude up about 0.7 per cent at US$48.81 a barrel, after marking its lowest settlement since March 31.

Brent added 0.4 per cent to US$55.47, after it settled at its lowest level since April 2 on Thursday, amid persistent fears about a global supply glut.