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Business: Asian stocks mixed as US jobs, politics in focus

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian stock markets were mixed Friday as investors awaited the monthly U.S. jobs report and developments in the U.S. probe into President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent to 19,963.94 while South Korea’s Kospi added 0.4 percent to 2,396.44. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was nearly flat 27,532.77 and the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.4 percent to 3,284.92. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.3 percent to 5,718.30. Singapore’s benchmark was lower but markets in Taiwan and other Southeast Asian countries advanced.

JOBS REPORT: The U.S. government is due to issue its July jobs report later Friday. Analysts forecast that American employers added 180,000 jobs and the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3 percent. A higher figure would increase the likelihood of a December rate hike by the Fed.

U.S. PROBE: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s decision to use a grand jury in an investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was the latest headline-grabbing news. The use of a grand jury suggests that Mueller and his team will likely hear from witnesses and demand documents in coming weeks. While the move doesn’t suggest any criminal charges are near or will necessarily be sought, the investigation is widely seen as a distraction and is not good news for markets.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “Politics come to the forefront once again with the latest development on the Trump-Russia probe. That said, equity markets continued with a semblance of calm awaiting Friday’s U.S. jobs report while Asian markets are likely to see dull trading into the end of the week,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary.

WALL STREET: U.S. markets finished mostly lower on Thursday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index shed 0.2 percent to 2,472.16. The Dow Jones industrial average notched its eighth gain in a row, adding less than 0.1 percent, to 22,026.10. The Nasdaq composite lost 0.4 percent to 6,340.34.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 13 cents to $48.90 per barrel in electronic trading on New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dipped 56 cents, or 1.1 percent, to close at $49.03 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, dropped 15 cents to $51.86 per barrel in London. It fell 35 cents to close at $52.01 a barrel on Thursday.


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