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Markets Edgy As US Payrolls Loom

By PAMELA SAMPSON

BANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ Asian stock markets were mixed Friday after a weak jobs report from the U.S. unnerved some investors, although losses were stanched by Wall Street's overall sterling performance for January.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index, meanwhile, was once again energized by the yen's continued descent against the dollar. It rose 0.4 percent to 11,177.33.

On Thursday in the U.S., the government reported that weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000. Investors had hoped to see better results since applications plummeted in the previous two weeks to five-year lows.

Still, investors buoyed by improving U.S. housing and jobs markets and decent corporate earnings have been scooping up stocks.

Although the Dow Jones industrial average finished lower on Thursday, the index logged its best January since 1994 by finishing 5.8 percent higher for the month. The Standard & Poor's 500 finished the month 5 percent higher, its best start to the year since 1997.

"There is a general feeling in the US that markets are due for a breather, and after such a red-hot month any excuse to take profits looks likely," said Evan Lucas of IG Markets in Melbourne.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 percent to 23,635.99. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.7 percent to 1,948.38. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.8 percent to 4,917.70. The ASX closed at 4,879 on Thursday, capping its best January since 1995, Lucas said.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was up 6 cents to $97.54 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 45 cents to close at $97.49 a barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.

In currencies, euro rose to $1.3614 from $1.3574 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 91.77 yen from 91.38 yen.

___

Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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