Asian stocks mostly higher ahead of US jobs report

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HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stocks were mostly higher Friday ahead of a critical U.S. jobs report but China’s market slipped after the country took fresh steps to slow lending and prevent its economy from overheating.

Most markets rose by less than 1 percent, helped by gains in big exporting companies in Japan and elsewhere after U.S. retailers issued upbeat holiday sales figures, raising hopes of recovering demand from American consumers. The dollar rose slightly against the yen and the euro while oil prices fell.

Investors were watching for U.S. jobs data due Friday that could shed more light on the state of demand from the world’s largest economy for goods made in Asia and other exporting regions.

Analysts expect the economy’s job losses to slow in December to 8,000. The unemployment rate is expected to rise to 10.1 percent from 10 percent.

Japanese shares led the region, with the Nikkei 225 stock average rising 116.66 points, or 1.1 percent, to 10,798.32.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi added 0.7 percent to 1,695.26. Australia’s market rose 0.2 percent and Taiwan’s index was up 0.5 percent.

In China, the Shanghai index lost 0.4 percent to 3,180.47. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.5 percent at 22,383.69.

Investors there were rattled after China’s central bank raised slightly the interest rate on its three-month bills, heightening concerns the government would soak up the liquidity that’s buoyed asset prices over the last year.

The Dow rose 33.18, or 0.3 percent, to 10,606.86. The broader S&P 500 index rose 4.55, or 0.4 percent, to 1,141.69. It was the highest close for both indexes since Oct. 1, 2008.

The Nasdaq fell 1.04, or 0.1 percent, to 2,300.05.

Oil prices fell in Asia, with benchmark crude for February delivery down 38 cents to $82.28 a barrel. On Thursday, the contract fell 52 cents to settle at $82.66.

The dollar rose to 93.37 yen from 93.27 yen. The euro fell to $1.4308 from $1.4318.