Japan stocks drift after weak US earnings add to economic pessimism

Japanese stocks drifted Friday after weak U.S. earnings underlined an uncertain economic outlook and dented Wall Street. Most Asian and European markets were closed for Labour Day.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 closed up 0.1 per cent at 19,531.63 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.4 per cent to 5,814.40. New Zealand’s benchmark rose 0.1 per cent to 6,205.13. Most markets in Asia and Europe are closed for the holiday. Futures augured gains on Wall Street after a sell-off the day before. S&P 500 futures were up 0.2 per cent to 2,083.90. Dow futures rose 0.3 per cent to 17,813.

CLOUDY OUTLOOK: Disappointing earnings from some U.S. companies added to pessimism about the economic outlook after weak first quarter growth in the world’s biggest economy. While many investors remain optimistic that growth will resume later in the year that belief isn’t yet being backed up stronger economic data or good corporate earnings.

THE QUOTE: “Focus remained on the U.S. recovery with investors concerned about growth stalling and employment costs rising,” said IG strategist Stan Shamu in a market commentary. “Personal spending and personal income data also fell short, while earnings were more on the disappointing side. This saw investors largely ignore the better-than-expected unemployment claims reading.”

JAPAN DATA: Japan’s core inflation rate edged up in March and unemployment eased slightly, according to data released Friday, offering glimmers of promise for the world’s No. 3 economy as it struggles to get growth back on track after years of stagnation. Though a decline in factory output and other key measures were less encouraging, the central bank kept its ultra-loose monetary policy unchanged in a policy meeting Thursday despite expectations for more stimulus.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 2 cents at $59.65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. U.S. oil gained $1.05, or 1.8 per cent, to settle at $59.63 a barrel in New York on Thursday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 15 cents at $66.63 a barrel in London. It rose 94 cents to $66.78 a barrel in the previous trading session.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.1243 from $1.1214 on Thursday. The dollar rose to 119.82 yen from 119.45 yen.