Asian stock markets mostly higher as investors await US data for clues about Fed hike



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SEOUL, South Korea — Asian stock markets were mostly higher Wednesday as investors waited for U.S. jobs data to assess when the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates that have been at a record low.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.7 percent to 20,666.74 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.1 percent to 2,030.11. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.3 percent to 24,472.48. China's Shanghai Composite Index lost ground after a rally in the previous session, falling 1.3 percent to 3,708.66. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 also dropped 0.3 percent to 5,679.00. Stocks in Taiwan, India and Southeast Asia rose.

US DATA: U.S. Payroll processor ADP reports how many jobs private employers added in July, which will give some clues about monthly U.S. employment figures that are due Friday. Robust job creation will cement expectations for a U.S. interest rate hike in September or December. The Fed has kept interest rates ultra-low for several years, which has been a boon for stock markets. Also on Friday, the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, issues its index of non-manufacturing activity for July, which shows the status of U.S. service firms that represent a major portion of the world's biggest economy.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Although the September or December continuum may continue to cause market gyrations in the coming one or two weeks, it is now very clear that we are getting very close to Fed lift-off," said Bernard Aw, a market strategist at IG. "The ADP number tonight would add some color to the expectations, while ISM services and trade balance data may also attract market attention."

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks fell for a third straight day Tuesday pulled down by some disappointing earnings reports. The Standard & Poor's 500 dropped 0.2 percent to 2,093.32. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 0.3 percent to 17,550.69. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.2 percent to 5,105.55.

ENERGY: In energy trading, the price of oil rose for a second day. Benchmark U.S. crude added 28 cents to $46.02 a barrel on electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 57 cents to close at $45.74 a barrel in New York on Tuesday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose 24 cents to $50.22 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened against major currencies. It rose to 124.44 yen from 124.30 yen. The euro fell to $1.0859 from $1.0892.

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