Asian shares meander following weak session on Wall Street

By , on March 4, 2016


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MANILA, Philippines—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 will open this weekend with a speech by Premier Li Keqiang that is likely to downgrade the country’s official growth forecast.

China said Friday it will boost military spending by about 7 to 8 per cent this year, the smallest increase in six years, reflecting slowing economic growth and a drawdown of 300,000 troops as Beijing seeks to build a more streamlined, modern military.

Keeping score: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.2 per cent to 16,991.52, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.6 per cent to 20,066.03 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 per cent to 5,151.10. South Korea’s Kospi edged 0.2 per cent lower to 1,954.45. The Shanghai Composite index fell 0.6 per cent to 2,844.36, 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 per cent, down from 2015’s goal of about 7 per cent.

Wall Street: The Dow Jones industrial average gained 44.58 points or 0.3 per cent to 16,943.90 and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose seven points, or 0.4 per cent, to 1,993.40. The Nasdaq composite added 4 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4,707.42.

Oil: The price of U.S. crude oil rose 25 cents to $34.83 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 24 cents to $37.18 a barrel.

Currencies: The euro rose to $1.0950 from $1.0946 and the dollar climbed to 113.81 yen from 113.62 yen.