The dollar held pole position in Asia on Friday as bulls wagered a looming U.S. jobs report would add to the chance of rate hikes there, even as the European Central Bank embarks on a trillion euro campaign of bond-buying. The same balance of risks kept most equity investors cautious with MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS up a slim 0.2 percent.
Australia’s main index .AXJO dipped 0.4 percent, while Shanghai .SSEC edged up 0.2 percent. The major exception was Japan’s Nikkei .N225 which gained 1 percent to a fresh 15-year top after the yen weakened on the dollar. Analysts polled by Reuters expect U.S. payrolls to have increased 240,000 last month and the jobless rate to have ticked down to 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent. ECONUS
The recent run of U.S. economic news has been mixed at best, leading analysts to steadily downgrade forecasts for growth this quarter. A strong jobs report could offset all that and give the Fed reason to stick to its tightening timetable at the next policy meeting on March 17-18. “Another healthy job gain, particularly if accompanied by another relatively firm gain in average hourly earnings, would go a long way toward solidifying expectations for “patient” being removed from the March statement and increasing the perceived odds of a rate hike in June,” said Edward Acton, a Treasury strategist at RBS.
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