Asia markets gain on optimism for solid U.S. jobs, euro probes new lows

An electronic board displaying Japan's Nikkei average and various countries' stock price index outside a brokerage in Tokyo. Asian stocks gained on Friday on upbeat expectations for the closely-watched US jobs data. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
An electronic board displaying Japan's Nikkei average and various countries' stock price index outside a brokerage in Tokyo. Asian stocks gained on Friday on upbeat expectations for the closely-watched US jobs data. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian stocks gained on Friday on upbeat expectations for the closely-watched U.S. jobs data while the euro continued to probe fresh nine-year lows against the dollar.

Equities worldwide suffered deep losses early this week as plunging oil prices and global growth woes triggered investor flight from risk assets. But optimism towards the U.S. economy and prospects of more stimulus from the European Central Bank have diffused risk aversion for the time being.

Taking heart after Wall Street rallied for the second day on Thursday, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.4 percent.

Japan's Nikkei was up 0.8 per cent and Australian shares added 0.9 per cent.

The S&P 500 has gained a total of 3 per cent over the last two sessions, retracing most of its 4.2 per cent loss in the previous five trading days.

Friday's U.S. jobs report is expected to show that non-farm payrolls increased by 240,000 in December. That would mark the 11th consecutive month of job gains above 200,000, the longest stretch since 1994.

"With worries over the Chinese economy slowing down and risks from Greece still in place, further evidence of continuing recovery in the U.S. economy will be needed if risk appetite is to recover fully," said Junichi Ishikawa, market analyst at IG Securities in Tokyo.

In currencies, the euro traded at US$1.1792, wallowing close to a fresh nine-year low of US$1.1754 hit overnight on the back of enhanced expectations that the ECB would embark on fresh easing as early as this month.

The dollar was up 0.1 per cent at 119.76 yen, having come back from a three-week low of 118.05 struck on Tuesday when risk aversion favoured the safe-haven Japanese currency.

Providing another source of relief for still wary global markets, crude oil prices held their ground after a 10 per cent loss earlier in the week.

U.S. crude oil gained 53 cents to US$49.32 a barrel after plumbing a 5-1/2-year low of US$46.83 on Wednesday.