Asia stocks waver as earnings digested, monthly US employment report awaited

BANGKOK – Asian stock markets wavered Tuesday as investors battened down for U.S. earnings and the September employment report that was delayed by the government shutdown.

Benchmarks in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and South Korea fell while Japan and Australia posted modest gains. Stock markets in Southeast Asia were mixed. Oil traded below $100 a barrel.

Markets are absorbing quarterly U.S. earnings, with about 30 per cent of S&P 500 companies releasing results this week, and also awaiting the September jobs report which was delayed more than two weeks.

U.S. employers are forecast to have added 180,000 jobs, up from 169,000 in August. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 7.3 per cent, which will support arguments in favour of the Federal Reserve continuing its super easy monetary policy.

Employers are adding jobs at only a modest pace, and many of the hires are in lower-paying industries. Economists think the shutdown slowed growth in the October-December quarter and likely dampened hiring.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average was up 0.2 per cent at 14,723.44 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.5 per cent to 5,378.

Seoul’s Kospi lost 0.1 per cent to 2,051.65. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.5 per cent to 23,324.50 and China’s Shanghai Composite Index was off 0.7 per cent at 2,214.51.

Benchmarks in India and Singapore rose while Indonesia and Thailand fell.

Monday’s batch of U.S. earnings were mixed. McDonald’s confirmed that it faces greater competition, shifting eating habits and tough economic conditions around the world. The share price of toy maker Hasbro spiked sharply after reporting better-than-expected results.

The S&P 500 closed up a fraction of a point at 1,744.66, an all-time high, its third consecutive record close. The Dow Jones industrial average edged down 7.45 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 15,392.20. The Nasdaq composite rose 5.77 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 3,920.05.

Benchmark crude for November delivery was down 27 cents at $98.95 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The November contract expires Tuesday.

Oil closed below $100 a barrel Monday for the first time since early July as U.S. supplies keep rising and the risks of disruption to Middle East shipments subside. The contract fell $1.59 to $99.22

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3667 from $1.3673 late Monday. The dollar rose to 98.31 yen from 98.18 yen.