Asian stock markets rise ahead of US jobs data

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BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets rose Friday ahead of an update on the U.S. jobs market as the Federal Reserve ponders whether further rate hikes are needed to calm soaring inflation.

Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney advanced. US futures and oil prices rose slightly.

Investors were eagerly awaiting the monthly U.S. jobs numbers for possible signs of weakness that could prompt the Fed to decide it needs to ease rate hikes to calm inflation. Other data suggests the economy is slowing, which should reduce upward pressure on prices.

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“There will likely be a strong focus on the resilience of job growth” after an uptick in jobless claims, ActivTrades’ Anderson Alves said in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.3% to 3,198.11 while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose less than 0.1% to 20,192.36.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo gained 0.8% to 28,143.55 after labor income in June rose 2.2% from a year ago, although forecasters warned that strength will not probably wouldn’t last. Half-yearly bonuses are paid in June.

Seoul’s Kospi gained 0.9% to 2,494.65 and Sydney’s S&P ASX 200 rose 0.4% to 7,003.00.

The Indian Sensex rose 0.5% to 58,568.12. On Friday, the Reserve Bank of India raised its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point to 5.4%.

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RBI Gov. Shaktikanta Das forecast inflation to hit 6.7% in the fiscal year ending next March and the economy to grow at an annual rate of 7.2%.

New Zealand fell while Southeast Asian markets rose.

Jakarta rose 0.2% after Indonesia’s economy grew stronger than expected by 5.4% year-on-year in the last quarter.

Investors fear that rate hikes by the Fed and other central banks in Europe and Asia to rein in inflation that is at multi-decade highs could derail economic growth.

The Fed has raised its benchmark rate twice by 0.75 percentage points this year, three times its usual margin and the biggest increases since the early 1990s.

Fed officials have tried to calm fears that the United States could tip into a recession by pointing to a strong labor market as evidence that the economy can tolerate higher borrowing costs.

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The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week rose by a modest 6,000 from the previous week to 260,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Early applications typically reflect layoffs, but forecasters still see the job market as one of the strongest sectors in the economy.

Data earlier this week indicated that the number of new U.S. job openings advertised had slipped, but were still near record highs.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 closed 0.1% lower on Thursday as investors digested corporate earnings reports and awaited jobs data.

The S&P 500 fell to 4,151.94 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3% to 32,726.82. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.4% to 12,720.58.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude gained 42 cents to $88.96 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell from $2.12 the previous session to $88.54. Brent crude, the price basis for international trade, advanced 27 cents to $94.39 a barrel. It fell from $2.66 the previous session to $94.12.

The dollar gained 133.45 yen from 132.91 yen on Thursday. The euro fell to $1.0230 from $1.0249.

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