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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks edge higher despite dismal US jobs data amid pandemic

Singapore Airlines tumbles after capital raising plan

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside of Japan ended higher on Friday as a surge in claims for U.S. unemployment benefits on account of the coronavirus pandemic did not stall the rebound in risk assets.

The Nikkei Asia300 index advanced 0.8% to 1,110.97.

Data released late yesterday showed that the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits soared to 3.3 million last week in the wake of the layoffs caused by the pandemic. Yesterday's print was more than three times than what economists polled by Reuters had expected and was more than four times the previous record of claims filed at the time of the 2008 financial crisis.

Investors were watching yesterday's data closely to understand the economic implications of the outbreak on the U.S. jobs market. On account of restrictions across the U.S. to contain the virus, the world's largest economy is expected to take a major hit in the next quarter.

Policymakers have attempted to blunt the impact of the outbreak by easing interest rates, buying bonds, and by direct payouts to citizens.

Despite that, economists expect a major downturn in the U.S. economy. Goldman Sachs expects the U.S. GDP to slump by 24% in the June quarter and JP Morgan expects a 25% decline.

Meanwhile, virus cases in the U.S. and around the world have continued to surge. The U.S. now has more than 80,000 cases, more than anywhere else. Globally, the number of the infected doubled in a week.

In movers on the A300, Hong Kong-shares of Industrial & Commercial Bank of China and Bank of China rose at least 0.3% each, while China Construction Bank advanced 0.5%. All the three lenders reported earnings on Friday after markets closed.

Singapore Airlines tumbled 6.5% to S$6.08 after the carrier said it will tap shareholders for up to S$15 billion ($10.5 billion) to shore up its finances hit by the pandemic. SIA said late on Thursday it will issue up to 1.78 billion rights shares at S$3 per share on the basis of three rights shares for every two existing shares held.

India's benchmark index, BSE Sensex, slipped 0.4%. The gauge had earlier climbed about 4% after the country's Monetary Policy Committee cut the key interest rate by 75 basis points.

State Bank of India advanced 1.7%, ICICI Bank rose 2.4%, and Housing Development Finance Corp rose 0.2%.

--Nimesh Vora

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