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Most Asian stocks lower on Fed minutes; Nikkei up 2.59%

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Shutterstock photo - Most Asian equities declined Friday as traders took their cues from what was a lethargic Thursday session in the U.S. Speculation that the Federal Reserve will bring an end to quantitative easing this year and caution ahead of the December jobs report are also weighing on Asian shares.

In Asian trading Friday, Japan's Nikkei 225 surged 2.59%, highlighting the notion that Japanese shares are catching up to their Asian counterparts after a four-day holiday break in Japan.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.75% well the Shanghai Composite fell 0.21%. Chinese stocks were dragged lower by what appeared to be the first weak data point out of the world's second-largest economy in several months.

HSBC said its flash reading of China's purchasing managers' index of service industries fell to 51.7 in December from 52.1 in November. Still, a reading above 50 indicates expansion.

In U.S. economic news, the ADP private sector payroll report showed the addition of 215,000 new U.S. jobs last month, up from a revised 148,000 in November. The Labor Department delivers the December jobs report on Friday morning. The current U.S. jobless rate is 7.7%.

The Labor Department said initial claims for jobless benefits rose by 10,000 to 372,000 last week. Economists expected a weekly reading of 360,000 claims. The less volatile four-week moving average rose to 360,000 from 359,750. The December U.S. jobs report is due out later today with most economists forecasting the addition of about 150,000 new jobs, but the expectation is that the unemployment rate will remain 7.7%.

Speaking of data points, it was one of those that sent Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lower by 0.4% after the Australian Industry Group and Commonwealth Bank of Australia said its services index fell to 43.2 last month from 47.1 in November. That is the eleventh consecutive month of declines.

Elsewhere, New Zealand's NZSE 50 fell 0.18% while South Korea's Kospi slid 0.66%. Singapore's Straits Times Index was off 0.09%. - offers an extensive set of professional tools for the Forex, Commodities, Futures and the Stock Market including real-time data streaming, a comprehensive economic calendar, as well as financial news and technical & fundamental analysis by in-house experts.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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