Asian stocks edge higher, US dollar up before jobs report

A woman walking past an electric quotation board flashing the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo.
A woman walking past an electric quotation board flashing the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian stocks edged up and the US dollar rose to 1½-month highs versus the yen on Friday (March 10) ahead of the US non-farm payrolls report due later in the day.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.1 per cent, taking cues from a modest bounce in Wall Street overnight.

Japan's Nikkei climbed 1 per cent on the back of a weaker yen and Australian stocks added 0.4 per cent.

Wall Street was marginally higher, underpinned by speculation the widely-anticipated labour market report on Friday would show US payrolls growth in February was far more than economist forecast.

The non-farm payrolls report is expected to show 190,000 jobs were added in the US private and public sectors in February.

The employment figures are drawing particular interest as chances of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates several times this year could improve if the data underlines US economic strength.

Also of key concern to the broader risk-asset markets were the developments in crude oil, which saw prices fall to more than three-month lows overnight as record US crude inventories fed doubts about the effectiveness of Opec's recent deal to curb a global glut.

US crude was up 0.6 per cent at US$49.57 a barrel after sliding to US$48.59 overnight, the lowest since the end of November.

Mr Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, said Opec's recent cartel-like deal to limit output was working so far, but that the incentive within this hastily assembled deal to cheat was going up as prices were declining.

"So if the US inventory glut extends, or even just persists, the odds will rise that the cartel will fall apart. That eventuality - we are inclined to think of it as a likelihood - will set oil prices tumbling again," he wrote.

In currencies, the US dollar rose to 115.200 yen, its highest since Jan 27, as benchmark US Treasury yields rose to three-month highs on expectations that Friday's jobs report could seal expectations for the Fed to hike rates next week.

Cementing views of tighter US policy was also a report on Thursday that showed the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose to 243,000 last week, rebounding from a near 44-year low, but continuing to point to a tightening labour market.

The dollar did not fare as well against the euro. The common currency gained the previous day after European Central Bank head Mario Draghi suggested it was less necessary to prop up the market through ultra-loose monetary policy.

The euro was slightly higher at US$1.0588 after rising 0.4 per cent overnight.

The dollar index against a basket of major currencies was up 0.1 per cent at 101.960 after losing 0.2 per cent overnight.