Asian Shares Weaker On Regional Data, U.S. Nonfarm Payrolls Eyed

Asian shares drifted weaker on Thursday in cautious trade after weak regional data and a look ahead to nonfarm payroll data from the US at the end of the week.

Japan's Nikkei 225 edged down 0.33%. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 slid 0.33% as the trade balance dipped. In Australia, a trade balance surplus of A$856 million was far below the A$1.800 billion expected for June. As well, in China the Caixin services PMI came in at 51.5 well below the 51.9 seen, and 51.6 in June.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged down 0.48%, while the Shanghai Composite was off by just 0.01%.

Overnight, the rally in the Dow showed no sign of ending, closing at a record high on Thursday, led by a jump in shares of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) after the tech giant posted better-than-expected earnings for the quarter on Wednesday after markets closed.

Shares of Apple gained more than 4%, supporting a move higher in the Dow to a record 22,000, after the tech giant posted earnings that beat on both the bottom and top lines, benefiting from steady iPhone sales.

The company reported earnings per share of $1.67 on $45.4 billion in revenue. Analysts had forecast earnings per share of $1.57 on $44.89 billion in revenue.

Economic data, however, weighed on gains after private sector job creation for July fell short of expectations.

ADP and Moody's Analytics said U.S. private employers added just 178,000 jobs for the month, short of analysts’ forecasts of 185,000.

The weaker-than-expected private payrolls report comes two days ahead of nonfarm payrolls data due Friday, pointing to a possible slowdown in the U.S. labor market, adding to expectations the Federal Reserve may abandon its plan to hike rates at least once more this year.

Better-than-expected earnings for the quarter has been one of the key drivers of the recent rally, as recent data showed more than 73% of the S&P 500 companies had reported earnings that beat estimates on both the top and bottom lines.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed higher at 22,014. The S&P 500 traded 0.05% higher while the Nasdaq Composite traded flat at 6362.65.

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