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Shares mixed in Asia ahead of updates on jobs, inflation

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mixed Monday as investors awaited a slew of US economic data set for release later in the week.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 shed 0.6 per cent to finish at 33,231.27. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.7 per cent to 7,124.70. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.5 per cent to 2,516.89. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.5 per cent to 16,749.07, while the Shanghai Composite edged 0.2 per cent lower to 3,026.43.

China Evergrande’s Hong Kong traded shares were up 7 per cent after a Hong Kong court postponed until January 29 a hearing on its plan to restructure its massive debts. The company faces possible liquidation if creditors reject its restructuring plan.

Among the economic updates due this week are data on the job market, including the US government’s closely watched monthly employment report for November.

“Traders prepare for a slew of actionable US economic data scheduled for release this week, poised to be crucial in refining traders’ expectations regarding Federal Reserve policy. The insights garnered from this data may prove pivotal,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management.

Inflation data are also expected this week for several nations in Asia, including Japan, Thailand and the Philippines.

Wall Street finished last week with a fifth straight gain, as the S&P 500 reached its highest level in more than a year, gaining 0.6 per cent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 0.8 per cent higher, while the Nasdaq composite added 0.6 per cent. Gainers outnumbered decliners by roughly 6-to-1 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The view that the US Federal Reserve is finally done raising interest rates to curtail inflation has been a plus for markets. Data appear to show inflation easing since last year.

A US government report on Friday showed that construction spending continued rising in October, topping economists’ forecasts for growth.

Treasury yields have been broadly falling amid sentiment that the Fed’s aggressive rate hike policy is finished and potentially heading for a reversal. On Friday, the yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, rose to 4.25 per cent from 4.21 per cent late Friday. It was as high as 5.00 per cent in October.

The yield on the two-year Treasury fell to 4.55 per cent from 4.70 per cent late Thursday. Falling bond yields have helped relieve pressure on stocks, especially technology stocks.

Investors entered December on track to close out the year with solid gains. For the year, the S&P 500 is up 19.7 per cent and the Nasdaq composite is up 36.7 per cent. Smaller-company stocks have also recently turned higher for the year following the market’s recent rally. The Russell 2000 index is now up 5.8 per cent for the year.

In energy trading, benchmark US crude lost 34 cents to USD73.73 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Overall, oil prices have been easing for several months. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 44 cents to USD78.44 a barrel.

In currency trading, the US dollar inched down to JPY146.69 from JPY146.76. The euro cost USD1.0877, down from USD1.0885.

A currency trader passes by the screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) (centre) and the foreign exchange rate between US dollar and South Korean won (right) at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea on Monday. PHOTO: AP