Seoul — Global stock markets were sharply lower Friday ahead of the release of monthly U.S. jobs data. Asian markets finished widely lower, led by Tokyo stocks after the release of a downbeat Japanese central bank survey that set off concerns about the health of Japanese businesses, AP reports
KEEPING SCORE: European markets opened lower, with Britain’s FTSE 100 falling 0.9 percent to 6,119.08. Germany’s DAX dropped 1.4 percent to 9,826.93 while France’s CAC 40 sank 1.4 percent to 4,321.53. Futures showed a tepid start for Wall Street. Dow futures and S&P futures both fell 0.1 percent.
ASIA’S SCORECARD: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 sank 3.6 percent to 16,164.16, while South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.1 percent to 1,973.57. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index declined 1.3 percent to 20,498.92 and the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China finished 0.2 percent higher at 3,009.53 after trading lower for most of the day. Stocks in Taiwan, Singapore, Australia and Indonesia also were lower.
JAPAN: The Bank of Japan’s quarterly “tankan” index for large manufacturers fell to 6 in March, down from 12 in December. Japan’s big exporters have been hit by a double whammy of a slowing Chinese economy and a rising yen. The index measures the percentage of responding companies that say business conditions are better minus the percentage that say they are worse. So an index level of 6 means slightly more companies are optimistic than pessimistic — but more pessimistic than three months ago.
ANALYST’S TAKE: The survey “managed to disappoint on every line,” Angus Nicholson said in a daily commentary, adding that the result was the worst performance since the Bank of Japan began its massive stimulus measures in the second quarter of 2013. “The Nikkei did not handle the release well almost losing over 3 percent today, which could indeed be seen as a nasty portension for global equities heading into U.S. earnings season.”
U.S. JOBS: The U.S. government is scheduled to issue the monthly U.S. jobs report for March after employers added a robust 242,000 workers in February. Analysts said investors will be keen on the hourly earnings to be released later in the day as another decline in hourly earnings could prompt investors to adjust their expectations about a possible rate hike by the Federal Reserve this year.
OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 3 cents to $38.31 per barrel in New York. The contract rose 2 cents to $38.34 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 1 cent to $40.34 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 112.292 yen from 112.512 yen, while the euro gained slightly to $1.140 from $1.138.