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Stock market today: Asian stocks are mixed ahead of key U.S. jobs data

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stocks were mixed Friday after a steady Thursday on Wall Street as markets anticipated the key U.S. jobs data that will be revealed later in the day.

U.S. futures and oil prices rose.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 edged 0.1% lower to 38,661.04 after Friday data showed the household spending figures in April were up 0.5% year-on-year. This is the first increase since February 2023, a key indicator to assess the country’s economy as central bank officials prepare to hold the policy meeting next week.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index declined 0.6% to 18,367.73, and the Shanghai Composite index was down 0.4% to 3,036.08 as China trade data showed that exports in May rose faster than expected at 7.6% compared to the previous year, while imports were weaker than market forecasts.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.4% to 7,853.40. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.8% to 2,709.63.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 barely budged a day after leaping to set an all-time high for the 25th time this year. It dipped less than 0.1% to 5,352.96. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.2% to 38,886.17, while the Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1% to 17,173.12 after hitting its own record.

Big Lots tumbled 18.2% after reporting a larger loss for the latest quarter than expected. The retailer said it missed targets for sales because its customers are continuing to pull back on their spending, particularly for things that aren’t essentials.

Another retailer, Five Below’s stock fell 10.6%. Its profit and revenue last quarter fell short of analysts’ expectations, and CEO Joel Anderson said struggles for the company’s core lower-income customers dragged on results, even as it saw strong growth from its higher-income customers.

Many retailers and other companies have been highlighting a split between their customers making lower and higher incomes. Inflation is particularly hurting those at the lower end, who are struggling to keep up with a cost of living that’s still rising, even if inflation is not as fast as before. That threatens to crack a linchpin that’s kept the U.S. economy out of a recession despite high interest rates: strong spending by U.S. households.

Another factor that’s helped U.S. consumer spending stay so strong has been a remarkably solid job market. A report on Thursday showed some potential softening there as well.

More U.S. workers applied for unemployment benefits last week than the week before, when economists were expecting to see a slight decline. The numbers are still low compared with history, but they could suggest some slowing in the job market.

In a potentially discouraging signal for markets, a separate report on Thursday said the productivity of U.S. workers wasn’t quite as strong in the first three months of the year as economists thought. That’s key because strong productivity gains could allow wages for U.S. workers to keep rising without adding as much upward pressure on inflation.

Trading could be more exciting later in the day, when the U.S. government offers the latest monthly update on the job market. Economists expect it to show slight accelerations in hiring and average hourly wage gains from the month before.

“Policymakers have reasons to start feeling cautiously optimistic on the labor market front as wage growth is returning to a sustainable range while labor turnover is softening,” according to Roger Aliaga-Diaz, Vanguard’s chief Americas economist.

In other dealings, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 11 cents to $75.66 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude, the international standard, was up 3 cents to $79.90 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar rose to 155.77 Japanese yen from 155.68 yen. The euro climbed to $1.0896 from $1.0888.

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