GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares, oil gain; focus on US jobs data

GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares, oil gain; focus on US jobs data...

U. S. nonfarm payrolls data due later in the day is expected to show employers cut 520,000 jobs in May, lower than 539,000 in April, and the unemployment rate is forecast to rise to 9. 2 percent from 8. 9 percent in April.

A much worse-than-expected report could dampen expectations that the worst is over for the global economy, which have sent stock markets from Seoul to London surging since early March.

It could also serve as a reminder of the beari

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sh evidence that has been downplayed so far, such as evidence that American consumers, the lynchpin of global exports, are cutting spending.

"If the numbers are better than expected investors will get confirmation that the economys really improving but theres worry about what will happen if the figures are worse than consensus," said Yumi Nishimura, a deputy general manager of the investment advisory section at Daiwa Securities SMBC.

The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan rose 0. 8 percent as of 0150 GMT, rebounding from a 1. 9 percent fall on Thursday. The index looked set for a rise of close to 3 percent on the week, which would take its gains to around 63 percent from lows hit in early March.

Resource shares gained after oil prices surged on hopes that the global recession had bottomed out. Japanese oil and gas field developer Inpex rose 4. 4 percent.

Jumps in Australian-listed shares of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto helped push up Australias main index nearly 1 percent.

The deal effectively scuppered a $19. 5 billion bid by Chinas Chinalco to secure a stake in debt-laden Rio.

Japans Nikkei average rose 0. 8 percent, while markets in Seoul gained 1 percent.

Elsewhere, indexes in Shanghai and Singapore posted modest gains, though shares in Taiwan and Hong Kong fell.

Gains in Asian shares were also underpinned by data on Thursday showing fewer U. S. workers filed new claims for jobless benefits for a third straight week last week and productivity rose faster than expected in the first quarter.


Still, not all signals have been positive.

Most U. S. retailers posted disappointing May sales as recession-weary shoppers cut spending, while in another worrisome sign, U. S. mortgage rates surged to their highest in almost six months in the latest week, despite government efforts to keep rates at low levels. and

Central banks worldwide still remain cautious. The Bank of Japan is considering upgrading its views on the economy, sources at the central bank told Reuters, but even then they said the upgrade will be a shift to less pessimism rather than a swing to optimism.

The European Central Bank on Thursday slashed forecasts for the 16-country economy this year and said growth would not return until mid-2010, after keeping interest rates on hold at a record low of 1 percent.

The Bank of England also left interest rates steady, at 0. 5 percent, on Thursday.

Riskier assets that depend on improving global demand still gained nonetheless.

U. S. crude futures rose 59 cents to $69. 37 a barrel, building on a rally of more than 4 percent on Thursday that saw prices hit their highest since early November.

Also helping drive up oil was Goldman Sachs lifting its end of 2009 oil price forecast to $85 from $65 and introducing a new end-2010 forecast of $95.

In currency markets, investors switched to higher-yielding plays, though moves were tempered ahead of the U. S. jobs data.

The dollar index, a gauge of the greenbacks performance against a basket of six major currencies, fell 0. 1 percent to 79. 401.

The euro edged up 0. 1 percent from late U. S. trade to $1. 4197, crawling towards a five-month peak of $1. 4339 hit on EBS earlier this week after the ECB kept rates on hold, and rose 0. 4 percent to 137. 31 yen against the Japanese currency.

Commodity-linked currencies held firm. The Australian dollar rose 0. 2 percent to $0. 8038, not too far from an eight-month high of $0. 8265 hit on Wednesday.

After sharp falls on Thursday following the resignation of a third senior minister from the government, sterling fell 0.

1 percent to $1.


GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares, oil gain; focus on US jobs data