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Business: Asian markets flat after Apple value surpasses $1 trillion

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian shares were flat Friday in mixed trading ahead of the U.S. jobs report later in the day. There appeared to be scant carry-over Friday from overnight gains on Wall Street as Apple reached $1 trillion in value.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 was flat at 22,510.38 and the Shanghai Composite index added 0.1 percent to 2,770.14. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index shed less than 0.1 percent to 27,705.68 and Australia’s S&P ASX 200 was down just 1.30 points at 6,239.60. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.6 percent to 2,283.01. Shares rose in Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand but fell in Singapore.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks climbed Thursday as Apple’s surge past the $1 trillion mark boosted technology shares. Apple jumped 2.9 percent to finish at $207.39. Electric vehicle maker Tesla soared 16.2 percent to $349.54 after it said production of its lower-cost Model 3 sedan is growing and CEO Elon Musk said the company doesn’t expect to need to raise more money from investors. Consumer products and health care companies rose as second-quarter results from corporate America continued to surpass investors’ expectations. The S&P 500 index rose 0.5 percent to 2,827.22. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 7.66 points to 25,326.16. The Nasdaq composite jumped 1.2 percent to 7,802.69 and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 0.8 percent, to 1,682.10.

US JOBS: Optimistic employers likely stepped up hiring in July thanks to strong growth and consumer spending. Economists forecast that a report to be released later Friday will show employers added 191,000 jobs last month, down from 213,000 in June but easily enough to lower the unemployment rate over time. The jobless rate is projected to decline to 3.9 percent, near an 18-year low, from 4 percent.

ANALYST’S PERSPECTIVE: “July’s jobs data will be received with strong expectations brewing ahead of the release,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. “The leads for Asia are constructive and indeed we are seeing U.S. futures in the black this morning, aiding the recovery from yesterday’s steep drop.”

TRADE: The White House escalated the trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economic powers, saying it may impose a 25 percent tax on $200 billion in imports from China, to take effect after a hearing and public comment. That is up from a 10 percent tax it proposed in June.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude picked up 10 cents to $69.06 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 1.9 percent to $68.96 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 1 cent to $74.44 per barrel. It gained 1.5 percent to $73.45 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.69 yen from 111.65 yen. The euro climbed to $1.1591 from $1.1587.

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Investing.com – Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Friday, August 3:

1. Wages in focus in jobs report

The U.S. Labor Department will release the nonfarm payrolls report for July at 8:30AM ET on Friday, and it will be watched more for what it says about wages than hiring.

The consensus forecast is that the data will show jobs growth of 193,000, after adding 213,000 positions in June, while the unemployment rate is seen inching down to 3.9% from 4.0%.

However, most of the focus will likely be on average hourly earnings figures, which are expected to rise 0.3%, a tad faster than the 0.2% increase a month earlier. On an annualized basis, wages are forecast to increase 2.7%, the same gain reported in June.

A spike could put the Federal Reserve on notice about inflation as it considers more rate hikes. The Fed said this week it would continue to gradually raise rates should the economy continue to show “sustained expansion,” supported by a strong labor market and close-to-target inflation.

2. Japan overtakes China as world’s 2nd largest stock market as tariffs weigh

Chinese stocks have been pummeled by worries over tariffs, losing $2.29 trillion in value since a January high and falling into third place among the world’s biggest stock markets.

As of Thursday’s close, Bloomberg data showed that Chinese equities were worth $6.09 trillion, falling below the $6.16 trillion value of Japanese shares. U.S. stocks remained the biggest market at $31 trillion.

The escalation of trade tensions between the U.S. and Beijing has sent Chinese stocks on a nosedive along with the yuan.

The Chinese currency hit a 15-month low against the dollar early Friday, heading for its eighth straight weekly decline, the longest run since the start of the country’s modern foreign-exchange rate regime in 1994.

China’s services sector expanded at the weakest pace in four months in July, as there was the least growth in new business since December 2015, a private survey showed on Friday.

Forward-looking sentiment meanwhile was the second-weakest on record, with respondents blaming concerns surrounding company restructuring and the impact of the U.S.-China trade war.

3. U.S. futures cautious ahead of jobs report

U.S. futures pointed to a flat open on Friday as traders switched to a cautious stance ahead of the jobs report. A day earlier, the Nasdaq Composite ended with gains of 1.24%, boosted by buying furor in Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) that took the tech giant’s market cap beyond the $1 trillion mark.

At 5:55 AM ET (9:55 GMT), the blue-chip Dow futures edged forward 2 points, or 0.01%, S&P 500 futures were unchanged, while the Nasdaq 100 futures inched up 6 points, or 0.08%.

Elsewhere, European shares traded higher on Friday as investors celebrated upbeat earnings.

Earlier, Chinese shares increased their losses, falling below Japanese equities in value and losing their spot as the world’s second largest stock market where they had been since 2014. Japan’s Nikkei closed with meager gains of 0.05%.

4. Earnings season winding down

The bulk of second quarter earnings have already hit the wires and more than 80% of the S&P firms that have already reported have beaten profit estimates.

Just 8 S&P firms release earnings on Friday, but that will take the total so far to 406, or 81%.

Still, investors will likely look to a few names expected to release quarterly reports ahead of trading Friday.

Kraft Heinz (NASDAQ:KHC) is expected to report a quarterly profit of 92 cents per share on sales of about $6.6 billion.

The top line will likely get the most scrutiny as the company has seen softness in sales in recent quarter. Investors will also be looking for signs of cost inflation.

In addition, online coupon company Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) will issue results. Analysts expect it to post a profit of 3 cents per share on sales of $632 million. Shares of Groupon are higher in the past three months.

5. Oil prices waver ahead of U.S. shale production data

Oil prices wavered in early morning trade on Friday, passing between gains and losses, as a reported drop in inventories at a key delivery point in the U.S. boosted sentiment, but investors awaited data on U.S. drilling activity amid concerns of escalating production.

Information provider Genscape reportedly said Thursday that U.S. crude inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma, the key delivery point for Nymex crude stateside, had fallen by 1.1 million barrels since Friday, July 27. That added to official data out on Wednesday that said those stockpiles decreased by 1.338 million barrels last week.

Capping gains, concerns remained about escalating output from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia.

Market participants will watch production developments in the U.S. as Baker Hughes releases its weekly data later on Friday.

The U.S. rig count, an early indicator of future output, rose by 3 to 861 last week, according to oilfield services firm’s data. That was the first rig count rise in three weeks, pointing to signs of U.S. output growth.

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