Asia stocks little changed as oil prices pare gains after record surge

Stocks in Asia were little changed in Friday morning trade following a record surge in oil prices overnight that saw U.S. crude futures soaring more than 24%.

Mainland Chinese stocks were mixed in early trade, with the Shanghai composite down about 0.3% while the Shenzhen composite was largely flat. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dipped 0.69%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 gained 0.33% while the Topix index was 0.61% higher. South Korea’s Kospi also rose 0.48%.

Meanwhile, shares in Australia slipped, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.36%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.17% lower.

The moves came after an overnight surge in oil prices, though some of those gains were retraced in the morning of Asian trading hours Friday, with international benchmark Brent crude futures declining 2.24% to $29.27 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also fell 4.15% to $24.27 per barrel.

Oil companies in Asia Pacific were mixed, with Australia’s Santos surging 6.3% while Japan’s Inpex gained 3.69%. Hong Kong-listed shares of PetroChina, on the other hand, declined 2.61%.

Thursday’s oil price surge came after U.S. President Donald Trump told CNBC’s Joe Kernen that he spoke to President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and expects them to announce an oil production cut of 10 million to 15 million barrels.

Still, concerns over the economic impact of the global coronavirus pandemic are likely to linger. On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department said U.S. initial jobless claims surged to more than 6 million last week, reaching a new record as coronavirus-related shutdowns roll through the country.

The U.S. labor market “has more or less collapsed in the past two weeks,” Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s Joseph Capurso wrote in a note, adding “it is only the beginning because more US states are applying lockdowns.” He said the data indicates the nonfarm payrolls report for April will likely indicate a “large jump in unemployment.”

“Very large falls in US payrolls are coming in the following months, even if tonight’s report is stronger than expectations,” he said, referring to the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for March expected to be released later on Friday stateside.

On the economic data front, a private survey released Friday showed China’s services sector shrank further in March. The Caixin/Markit services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for March was at 43 following a record low of 26.5 in February, Reuters reported Friday. PMI readings below 50 indicate contraction, while figures above that level signify an expansion.

Investors have been watching data releases out of China for clues on the economic impact of the coronavirus. The first reported cases came out of the country, and authorities imposed measures such as an extended holiday period to prevent the disease’s spread.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 100.149 after crossing the 100 barrier yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.89 per dollar after an earlier high of 107.79. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6058 after seeing levels above $0.612 earlier in the week.

— CNBC’s Fred Imbert contributed to this report.

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