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Asian markets shrug off ECB stimulus as investors look ahead to US job report

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HONG KONG - Asian stocks were mostly indifferent on Friday to the unveiling of a big stimulus package from the European Central Bank as investors awaited the U.S. jobs report for May.

Reaction from Asian markets to the ECB measures, which included interest rate cuts and a new liquidity program for banks, was more muted than in Europe and on Wall Street, where some indexes reached record highs.

"Today, the U.S jobs report will garner most focus while investors continue to digest the ECB decision," strategists at Credit Agricole CIB said in a report.

U.S. nonfarm payrolls data for May is expected later Friday. The report will likely set the tone for markets for the following week as traders assess whether it changes the Federal Reserve's current policy stance of not rushing to raise interest rates.

Analysts forecast that U.S. employers added 220,000 jobs last month. A fourth straight 200,000-plus monthly job gain would add to evidence that the job market is strengthening.

Japan's Nikkei 225 was little changed at 15,077.09 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.3 per cent to 23,171.75. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.2 per cent to 2,036.53. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.6 per cent to 5,471.60.

Markets in South Korea were closed for a holiday.

On Wall Street, the Dow rose 0.6 per cent to close at 16,836.11 and the Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.7 per cent to 1,940.46. Both indexes are at record-high levels. The Nasdaq gained 1.1 per cent to 4,296.23.

The euro was flat at $1.3662. The dollar slipped to 102.34 yen from 102.43 in late trading Thursday.

Oil prices edged higher, with benchmark crude for July delivery up 1 cent to $102.49 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 16 cents to settle at $102.48 on Thursday.

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