SEOUL, South Korea – Most Asian stock markets were mixed Friday as investors awaited the monthly U.S. jobs report and developments in the U.S. probe into President Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russia.
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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.4 percent to 19,956.58 while South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 2,391.81. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was flat at 27,530.06 and the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.3 percent to 3,281.97. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was nearly flat at 5,731.40. Stocks in Singapore were lower but markets in Taiwan and other Southeast Asian countries advanced.
JOBS REPORT: The U.S. government is due to issue its July jobs report later Friday. Analysts forecast that American employers added 180,000 jobs and the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3 percent. A higher figure would increase the likelihood of a December rate hike.
U.S. PROBE: Special Counsel Robert Mueller's decision to use a grand jury in an investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was the latest headline-grabbing news. The use of a grand jury suggests that Mueller and his team will likely hear from witnesses and demand documents in coming weeks. While the move does not suggest any criminal charges are near or will necessarily be sought, the investigation is widely seen as a distraction and is not good news for markets.
ANALYST'S TAKE: "Politics come to the forefront once again with the latest development on the Trump-Russia probe. That said, equity markets continued with a semblance of calm awaiting Friday's U.S. jobs report while Asian markets are likely to see dull trading into the end of the week," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary.
WALL STREET: U.S. stock markets finished mostly lower on Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 0.2 percent to 2,472.16. The Dow Jones industrial average notched its eighth gain in a row, adding 9.86 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 22,026.10. The Nasdaq composite lost 0.4 percent to 6,340.34. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies sank 0.5 percent to 1,405.23 after a sharp loss a day ago.
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OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 8 cents to $48.915 per barrel in electronic trading on New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dipped 56 cents, or 1.1 percent, to close at $49.03 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, dropped 14 cents to $51.87 per barrel in London. It fell 35 cents to close at $52.01 a barrel on Thursday.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 110.10 yen from 110.04 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.1877 from $1.1870.