Asian stocks mostly lower after ECB inaction, ahead of US jobs

SEOUL, South Korea – Asian stocks were mostly lower Friday as investors were cautious ahead of the monthly U.S. jobs report after the European Central Bank delayed any additional stimulus to early next year. Hong Kong stocks were the only bright spot.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.2 per cent to 17,850.91 and South Korea’s Kospi inched down 0.1 per cent to 1,985.21. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.9 per cent to 5,318.60. But Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.5 per cent to 23,942.30. Stocks in mainland China advanced in the morning but erased gains.

ECB MEETING: After deciding to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 0.05 per cent, as expected, the European Central Bank did not unveil new stimulus on Thursday. Rather, President Mario Draghi said the ECB will reassess in the first months of 2015 the success of its existing stimulus programs and the impact of the recent plunge in oil prices on the economy of the 18-country euro bloc. The ECB forecasts for growth this year and next year have been revised down again.

THE QUOTE: “In spite of another downward revision to growth and inflation staff projections, the ECB delivered nothing but some futile communication changes,” said Frederik Ducrozet, a senior economist at Credit Agricole Corp. “Draghi was not in a position to give any explicit signal at this point. This suggests that political hurdles to sovereign QE remain high.”

US JOBS: The government issues the November jobs report. Last month’s report showed that the unemployment rate fell to 5.8 per cent, and employers added at least 200,000 jobs for the ninth straight month, the longest such stretch since 1995. CMC Markets strategist Ric Spooner said the release of the US jobs figure is likely to dictate caution among traders as there has been some patchiness in recent data from the U.S. despite the economy’s moderate growth pace.

WALL STREET: Wall Street closed slightly lower Thursday after the ECB failed to deliver any actions. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.1 per cent to 17,900.10. The Standard & Poor’s 500 declined 0.1 per cent to 2,071.92 and the Nasdaq composite also edged down 0.1 per cent to 4,769.44.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 33 cents at $66.48 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 57 cents to settle at $66.81 on Thursday. Brent crude declined 38 cent to $69.26 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London

CURRENCIES: The dollar gained to 119.89 yen from 119.76 yen. The euro fell to $1.2384 from $1.2386.