Asia stock markets muted as US jobs data awaited, Greece default risk rises

Energy Associated Press

Asian stock markets were muted Friday as investors awaited monthly U.S. employment figures and the risk of a Greek default increased. The price of oil extended gains.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.8 percent to 17,648.50 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 0.3 percent to 24,698.16. South Korea's Kospi added 0.1 percent to 1,955.52 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 5,820.20. Markets in Southeast Asia rose while benchmarks in China, Taiwan and India dropped.

GREECE RISK: In Europe, Greek stocks closed down 3 percent as tensions between the country's new left-wing government and the European Central Bank heightened. Greece's new left-wing government is insisting it will stick to its anti-austerity agenda after the ECB tightened the screws on Athens by withdrawing a key borrowing option for the country's banks. Jane Foley, an analyst at Rabobank International, said the ECB decision raised the risk that Greece could be forced into a default.

THE QUOTE: "Traders are also dusting off the 'Greek crisis' skills they acquired in 2010 and 2011," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, Australia. "The key attribute here is the ability to capitalize on the volatility caused by a rapid fire series of conflicting announcements and foreshadowed actions."

US JOBS: The Labor Department reports January jobs data later in the day. Economists estimate that non-farm employers in the U.S. added 230,000 jobs last month, down from 252,000 in December. While some analysts say that the non-farm payrolls data will not be a game changer, the Federal Reserve has emphasized the job market recovery as an important factor when it considers a rate hike.

WALL STREET: The U.S. stock market surged again on Thursday, putting the Dow Jones industrial average on track for its best week since 2011. Investors plowed money energy and health care stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped1.2 percent to 17,884.88. The Standard & Poor's 500 added 1 percent to 2,062.52. The Nasdaq composite rose 1 percent to 4,765.10.

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ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up $1.30 to at $51.74 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $2.03 to settle at $50.48 a barrel on Thursday extending its gain from the previous day. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose $1.26 to $57.81 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 117.30 yen from 117.48 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1465 from $1.1467.