Asian shares meander following weak session on Wall Street

AP News
Posted: Mar 03, 2016 9:59 PM
Asian shares meander following weak session on Wall Street

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Asian shares were mixed in cautious trading on Friday as investors awaited the release of U.S. non-farm payroll data and developments from China's National Congress, which opens with a speech by Premier Li Keqiang that is likely to downgrade the country's official growth forecast.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 index was nearly flat at 16,956.06, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.7 percent to 20,068.74 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.2 percent at 5,153.40. South Korea's Kospi edged 0.3 percent lower to 1,953.28. The Shanghai Composite index gained 0.2 percent to 2,864.68, while shares in Southeast Asia were mostly higher.

ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "The markets are settling into a combination of cautiousness and restrained hopefulness," Bernard Aw of IG said in a commentary. "Investors are holding back on their appetite for risk, preferring to nibble at fine pieces instead of gobbling at an international buffet."

CHINA OUTLOOK: China's leaders are expected to trim their growth target during the annual session of the National People's Congress, seeking more flexibility for structural reforms for the slowing, state-dominated economy. The growth target due to be announced on Saturday is expected to be a range of 6.5 to 7 percent, down from 2015's goal of about 7 percent.

WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average gained 44.58 points or 0.3 percent to 16,943.90 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose seven points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,993.40. The Nasdaq composite added 4 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,707.42.

OIL: The price of U.S. crude oil rose 24 cents to $34.81 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 9 cents to $34.57 a barrel Thursday. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, advanced 22 cents to $37.29 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro slipped to $1.0940 from $1.0946 and the dollar edged lower, to 113.60 yen from 113.62 yen.