World stocks traded unevenly Friday as investors weighed the impact of high oil prices against new signs of improvement in the US jobs market. Benchmark oil hovered above $108 per barrel while the dollar rose against the yen and the euro.
European stocks budged only slightly in early trading. Britain’s FTSE 100 was marginally lower at 5,929.90. Germany’s DAX was nearly unchanged at 6941.08 and France’s CAC-40 was 0.1 per cent higher at 3,504.18.
Wall Street appeared set for a lower opening, with Dow Jones industrial futures losing 0.1 per cent to 12,958 while S&P 500 futures lost 0.2 percent to 1,372.
The online review site Yelp Inc. jumped 60 percent following its initial public offering that valued the company at $900 million.
Both the Dow and Nasdaq are trading below milestones hit earlier this week. The Dow closed above 13,000 Tuesday for the first time since May 19, 2008. The Nasdaq index broke the 3,000 level Wednesday for the first time since 2001.
“Investors remain very nervous about the oil market and potential supply disruptions arising from the Middle East. From an investment perspective, high oil prices are quite negative for global growth,” said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG Markets in Melbourne, Australia.
Asian stock markets performed robustly, however, in the footsteps of Wall Street gains on Thursday.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 0.7 per cent to finish at 9,777.03, its highest close in seven months.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.8 percent to 21,562.26 and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.2 percent to 2,034.63.
Mainland Chinese shares rose, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index adding 1.4 percent to 2,460.69. The Shenzhen Composite Index climbed 2.1 percent to 980.77. Benchmarks in Australia, Singapore and Taiwan also rose.
The region’s markets were boosted by the latest sign of improvement in the US jobs market. The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest point since March 2008. The four-week average was also the lowest in four years.
Analysts said investors are also looking to the opening Monday of the annual meeting of the ceremonial Chinese legislature, which is used by the government as a platform to announce its policy direction for the coming year.
Investors expect to see measures to help prop up domestic demand as well as looser reins on lending to try to boost growth, said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.
“Right now, exports from mainland China are not so good, so they have to do more things to push up domestic demand,” he said.
News that major state-owned Chinese banks may begin easing property lending policies for first-time home buyers boosted real estate shares. Poly Real Estate, China’s second-largest listed property, gained 4.4 percent and industry leader China Vanke jumped 4 percent.
Tokyo-based Elpida Memory Ltd. plummeted 29 percent. The company, the only manufacturer in Japan to specialize in DRAM chips used in mobile phones and computers, filed for bankruptcy protection Monday.
Benchmark oil for April delivery was down 66 cents to $108.18 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.77 to finish at $108.84 per barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3257 from $1.3316 late on Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to ¥81.53 from ¥81.08.