Asian Shares Meander Following Weak Session on Wall Street

MANILA, Philippines (AP) -
A currency trader watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. Asian shares fell Tuesday as gloomy manufacturing data from China and weak investment figures in Japan augured further uncertainty for investors after a brutal August.(AP Photo/Ahnn Young-joon)
A currency trader watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahnn Young-joon)

Asian shares were mixed in cautious trading on Friday as investors awaited the release of U.S. non-farm payroll data and developments from China’s National Congress, which will open this weekend with a speech by Premier Li Keqiang that is likely to downgrade the country’s official growth forecast.

China said Friday it will boost military spending by about 7 to 8 percent this year, the smallest increase in six years, reflecting slowing economic growth and a drawdown of 300,000 troops as Beijing seeks to build a more streamlined, modern military.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.2 percent to 16,991.52, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.6 percent to 20,066.03 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent to 5,151.10. South Korea’s Kospi edged 0.2 percent lower to 1,954.45. The Shanghai Composite index fell 0.6 percent to 2,844.36, while shares in Southeast Asia were mostly higher.

“The markets are settling into a combination of cautiousness and restrained hopefulness,” Bernard Aw of IG said in a commentary. “Investors are holding back on their appetite for risk, preferring to nibble at fine pieces instead of gobbling at an international buffet.”

China’s leaders are expected to trim their growth target during the annual session of the National People’s Congress, seeking more flexibility for structural reforms for the slowing, state-dominated economy. The growth target due to be announced on Saturday is expected to be a range of 6.5 to 7 percent, down from 2015’s goal of about 7 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 44.58 points or 0.3 percent to 16,943.90 and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose seven points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,993.40. The Nasdaq composite added 4 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,707.42.

The price of U.S. crude oil rose 25 cents to $34.83 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 9 cents to $34.57 a barrel Thursday. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, advanced 24 cents to $37.18 a barrel.

The euro rose to $1.0950 from $1.0946 and the dollar climbed to 113.81 yen from 113.62 yen.