Asian markets higher on improving US jobs data

    BEIJING (AP) ? Asian markets moved higher Friday following a Wall Street rally spurred by an unexpectedly strong U.S. jobs report and a rebound in retail sales.

    Oil prices hovered below $99 a barrel in Asia amid signs of a strengthening U.S. economy. In currencies, the dollar was higher against the euro but dropped against the yen.

    Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained 1 percent to 10,170.34 and China’s Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.35 percent to 2,803.94. South Korea’s Kospi index was mostly unchanged at 2,179.39. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 1.1 percent to 22,784.40.

    The gains came after private payrolls firm ADP reported U.S. companies added more jobs in June than expected and weekly jobless claims were below forecasts. That helped to ease fears about the monthly U.S. Labor Department employment report due out Friday, which is seen as the most reliable gauge of job creation.

    Traders were cautious as they watched for the official U.S. data, said market strategist Ben Potter at IG Markets in Melbourne.

    “There’s been a big rally in markets over the last 10 days,” he said. “A fair bit of good news has been priced in already, so a few people could be looking to take some profits ahead of tonight’s data.”

    Oil-related shares bounced higher following the rise in crude prices. Petrochina Ltd., the publicly traded unit of China’s biggest oil and gas company, gained 2.1 percent, while China National Offshore Oil Corp., known as CNOOC, rose 2 percent. Japanese energy explorer Inpex Corp. was 1.7 percent higher.

    But what’s good for oil companies weighed on airlines, whose profits are reduced by higher fuel costs. Korean Air Lines Co. was down 2.3 percent and rival Asiana Airlines Inc. plunged 3.3 percent. Air China Ltd. lost 1.7 percent.

    The rally in global stock markets bolstered hopes that the economic recovery was gaining steam ? which helped boost resource and mining shares. China’s Zijin Mining Group rose 1 percent, while Energy Resources of Australia shot up 2.8 percent.

    Retailers in Asia followed their American counterparts up. Japan’s Fast Retailing Co. rose 1.7 percent, while Australian retailer Woolworths Ltd. gained 0.6 percent. On Thursday, U.S. retailers reported their best June sales results since 1999.

    On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.7 percent to close at 12,719.49 on Thursday. The Standard and Poor’s 500 index added 1.1 percent to 1,353.22. The Nasdaq composite closed at 2,872.66 after gaining 1.4 percent.

    The rally came on the heels of what appears to be an improving job market. The number of people who made first-time claims for unemployment benefits dropped last week to a seven-week low, the government reported.

    Payroll processor Automatic Data Processing said companies added 157,000 employees in June. That was more than double the number economists had forecast and far more than the 36,000 added the previous month.

    In oil trading, benchmark crude for August delivery was down 3 cents to $98.64 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude rose $2.02 to settle at $98.67 on Thursday.

    In London, Brent crude was steady at $118.59 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

    In currencies, the euro dropped to $1.4347 from $1.4351 in late trading Thursday in New York. The dollar weakened to 81.23 yen from 81.30 yen.