Stocks continued to struggle for direction amid slow late-summer trading, as investors paused following strong gains this year and ahead of the U.S. employment report due later Friday.
Asia-Pacific equities started with a modest downbeat tone, with country-specific issues weighing on Japanese and Australian stocks.
fell 0.4%, with the dollar falling below ¥110 to a seven-week low in earlier trading. Meanwhile, bond yields saw fresh declines overnight after the Bank of England cut economic forecasts, potentially ending the prospect of higher interest rates in the U.K. this year. A stronger domestic currency and higher bond prices are pressure points for exporters and insurers, which are index heavyweights in Japan.
Meanwhile, the S&P/ASX 200
rebounded from early weakness to turn slightly higher, even as the Reserve Bank of Australia midday trimmed economic-growth forecasts for the next year in the wake of the Australian dollar’s recent gains. The stock index was recently up 0.1%.
The modest drop earlier for the ASX came amid a 2.9% decline in Commonwealth Bank of Australia
. Late Thursday, the major lender was sued by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre for allegedly failing in its money-laundering reporting obligations more than 53,700 times.
CBA’s drop came amid weakness in the region among finance stocks, after quarterly results from some of the U.S’s biggest insurers weighed on the broader financial sector.
Meanwhile, investors are bracing for Friday’s jobs report. For many, that means doing little trading. “Asian equities will move sideways as long as nothing untoward happens,” said Tim Kelleher, head of institutional foreign exchange trading at ASB Bank.
Economists expect payroll growth to slow in July, but not alarmingly so. The consensus estimate is for 180,000 new jobs to have been created last month, down from June’s initially reported 222,000. While there will be another report before the next Federal Reserve meeting in September, July’s reading could still prove key for the dollar.
“The market is getting shorter and shorter U.S. dollars,” noted Kelleher, “so there is a risk the market is going to reverse pretty quickly” if the report is better than anticipated.
The Wall Street Journal Dollar Index was flat in Asian trading.