Asian shares were broadly lower Friday, with Japan shrugging off better-than-expected economic data as concerns around the narrowing race for the White House curbed investor appetite.
The Nikkei Stock Average was off 1.4% as traders digested recent yen strength after the market reopened following a public holiday Thursday. The yen is up almost 2% against the dollar so far this month. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.7%, on track for a fourth week of losses. Korea's Kospi was 0.1% lower, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.3%.
Early Friday, the Nikkei Japan services purchasing managers index rose to 50.5 in October from 48.2 in September. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below 50 indicates contraction.
Nevertheless, local traders were more concerned with the U.S. presidential election next week. Electronics and auto stocks, which are particularly sensitive to economic cycles, led the declines. Sony was down 3.6%, while Honda Motor traded 3.9% lower. Democrat Hillary Clinton, who is seen by investors as more market friendly, has seen her lead over Republican Donald Trump erode in recent polls.
"Major fundamental data are taking a back seat ahead of this U.S. presidential election," said Alex Wijaya, a senior sales trader at CMC Markets. The Japan data, like several releases this week, "had a minimal impact," Mr. Wijaya said.
Elsewhere, a ruling by the U.K. High Court on Thursday that British Prime Minister Theresa May can't trigger Article 50 to start the process of leaving the European Union without approval from Parliament saw the pound surge 1.2% against the greenback.
The fresh doubts around the path for a British exit from the EU added to investor uncertainty, though.
"We're seeing a big pickup in short interest because of the uncertainty, and we're seeing a lot of hedging activity," said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG Markets.
Gold stocks were the refuge of choice during a volatile week as investors sought safety. Among Australian gold miners, Newcrest Mining was up 11.8% week-to-date, Evolution Mining rose 12.4%, and Resolute Mining gained 5.1%. Spot gold was recently up 0.1% at $1303.08 a troy ounce.
Among individual shares, Japanese air bag maker Takata was suspended following a Nikkei report that it is preparing for a possible bankruptcy protection filing in the U.S. amid the mounting costs related to defective air bags.
The market will be watching for nonfarm payrolls data out of the U.S. later Friday for clues to when the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates. According to CME Group's FedWatch tool, the probability of an increase next month is steady at 71.5%.
Kosaku Narioka and Alexis Flynn contributed to this article.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 03, 2016 23:15 ET (03:15 GMT)
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