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Asia: Stocks mixed as China returns after break

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[SYDNEY] Asian stocks were mixed as Chinese markets returned from a five-day break, while investors awaited Friday's US jobs report.

Japanese stocks climbed for the second time in three days, while shares slipped in Shanghai after a week-long holiday. That came after the S&P 500 Index closed with a gain of less than two points for a second straight day amid corporate results and deal news.

The yen extended a weekly gain while the Aussie was steady after a rally that sent it to the highest since just after the US elections. A gauge of the US dollar traded near its lowest level since November. Japanese 10-year yields jumped after the Bank of Japan's bond buying.

With central banks from Japan to England and the US signalling they're in no rush to change policy direction as the world assesses the impact of America's new leadership on global growth, investors continue to look for clues on economic strength.

While signs point to increasing confidence that growth will accelerate, data have painted a murkier picture, increasing the significance of Friday's jobs report.

Economists expect a 175,000 increase in US nonfarm payrolls for January, in line with the recent trend, when the Labour Department releases jobs data on Friday. With both hiring and unemployment likely to remain relatively stable, the focus on the jobs report will center on wage pressures.


Japan's Topix Index climbed 0.5 per cent as of 11:11am in Tokyo.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index was little changed, while South Korea's Kospi fell 0.1 per cent and New Zealand's main gauge added 0.3 per cent.

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.5 per cent on its first day of trading since Jan 26.

The S&P 500 Index rose 1.3 points to 2,280.85 on Thursday. The index has gained or retreated by less than 0.1 per cent for five of the past six days, and is down 0.6 per cent on the week.


The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index rose less than 0.1 per cent. It is still set for its steepest weekly drop, down 1.1 per cent since Jan 27.

The Aussie was down 0.1 per cent to 76.50 US cents. It surged one per cent Thursday after government data showed a record trade surplus for December.

The yen was at 112.64 per US dollar, up more than 2 per cent on the week.


Japanese 10-year yields rose as much as four basis points to 0.15 per cent, the highest since the Bank of Japan implemented its negative rate policy last January. Traders judged the central bank's expanded bond purchases Friday to be insufficient to cap borrowing costs as global rates advance.

The yield on the 10-year US Treasury note added one basis point to 2.48 per cent. Australian bond yields were steady at 2.77 per cent.


West Texas Intermediate crude rose 0.5 per cent to US$53.81 a barrel. It's headed for a third weekly gain amid estimates that Opec reached about 60 per cent of its output-cut target.

Gold declined 0.1 per cent to US$1,214.98 an ounce, paring its gain for the week to 2 per cent.


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