By PAMELA SAMPSONBANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ Asian stock markets mostly eked out modest gains Friday as investors exercised prudence ahead of a key U.S. jobs report. Jitters remained over Syria's civil war and whether the U.S. would launch a punitive strike against President Bashar Assad's regime for an alleged chemical attack against civilians in suburban Damascus last month. But at the G-20 summit of world leaders in Russia this week, President Barack Obama failed to amass much support for military intervention. Meanwhile, signs of a strengthening U.S. labor market added to hopes that the recovery of the global economy, hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis, was gaining traction. "Market mood should remain healthy though Syria will be a lingering concern as G20 concludes," said analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong in a market commentary. Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell on profit-taking after four sessions of gains. The benchmark index was down 1.1 percent to 13,906.13. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.3 percent to 1,957.55. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.1 percent to 22,613.41 India's Sensex benchmark surged 2.2 percent Thursday, a day after the country's new central bank head, Raghuram Rajan, announced a series of measures aimed at shoring up the rupee currency and strengthening the banking system. Among new measures Rajan promised was one to allow existing banks to open new domestic branches without Reserve Bank of India permission. Rajan also said long-awaited new banking licenses would be issued by January. U.S. markets finished higher Thursday after the Labor Department said jobless claims declined in the last week of August and the ADP Research Institute said the private sector added 176,000 jobs in August. The Dow Jones industrial average gained less than 0.1 percent to close at 14,937.48. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.1 percent to 1,655.08. The Nasdaq composite 0.3 percent to 3,658.78.
Investors were also looking ahead to later in the day when the official U.S. jobs report for August will be released. It is the last major piece of economic data the Federal Reserve will get to see before it decides whether or not to pull back on its massive bond-buying program. That program has kept interest rates abnormally low and supported stock markets. While most investors believe the Fed will begin to pull back, the question has become when and how much.Benchmark crude for October delivery was up 3 cents to $108.40 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.14 to close at $108.37 on the Nymex on Thursday. In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3129 from $1.3119 late Thursday. The dollar fell to 99.76 yen from 100.14 yen. ___ Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson