Global stock markets tentative ahead of release of highly anticipated US employment report

BANGKOK – Global stock markets were tentative Friday, exercising prudence ahead of a key U.S. jobs report.

Jitters remained over Syria’s civil war and whether the U.S. would launch a punitive strike against President Bashar Assad’s regime for an alleged chemical attack against civilians in suburban Damascus last month. But at the G-20 summit of world leaders in Russia this week, President Barack Obama failed to amass much support for military intervention.

Meanwhile, signs of a strengthening U.S. labour market added to hopes that the recovery of the global economy, hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis, was gaining traction.

“Market mood should remain healthy though Syria will be a lingering concern as G-20 concludes,” said analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong in a market commentary.

European stocks fell in early trading. Britain’s FTSE 100 dropped slightly to 6,530.27. Germany’s DAX was less than 0.1 per cent down at 8,229.37. France’s CAC-40 was marginally lower at 4,005.33.

Wall Street also looked set for slim losses, with Dow Jones industrial futures down less than 0.1 per cent at 14,908. S&P 500 futures were nearly unchanged at 1,652.80.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell on profit-taking after four sessions of gains. The benchmark index closed down 1.5 per cent at 13,860.81. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.2 per cent to 1,955.31. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose slightly to 5,145.

Stocks in Hong Kong and mainland China have posted gains in recent days after Chinese manufacturing data showed the slowdown in the world’s No. 2 economy is stabilizing.

The Shanghai Composite Index has gained about 100 points in just the past month.

“Investors are more bullish now and the stock market is poised for a rebound,” said Francis Lun, chief economist at GE Oriental Financial Group in Hong Kong. “It is a change in investor sentiment.”

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.1 per cent to 22,621.22. The Shanghai index advanced 0.8 per cent to 2,139.99. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index rose 0.5 per cent to 1,030.76.

Among individual stocks, Sun Hung Kai Properties, Hong Kong’s largest property developer, fell 0.5 per cent after paying a mammoth 21.7 billion yuan ($3.5 billion) at a public auction for a site in Shanghai.

U.S. markets finished higher Thursday after the Labor Department said jobless claims declined in the last week of August and the ADP Research Institute said the private sector added 176,000 jobs in August.

Investors were looking ahead to later in the day when the official U.S. jobs report for August will be released. It is the last major piece of economic data the Federal Reserve will get to see before it decides whether or not to pull back on its massive bond-buying program. That program has kept interest rates abnormally low and supported stock markets. While most investors believe the Fed will begin to pull back, the question has become when and how much.

Benchmark crude for October delivery was up 39 cents to $108.76 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.14 to close at $108.37 on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3128 from $1.3119 late Thursday. The dollar fell to 99.63 yen from 100.14 yen.