In Asia Thursday the Nikkei 225 Index edged down 0.1% to 9,685 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index remained virtually unchanged at 22,884. Markets in China remained closed.
All eyes were on new figures released by ADP that show that 39,000 private-sector jobs disappeared in the U.S. between August and September. This does not bode well for Friday's report from the Labor Department, which could show that the jobless rate has risen as high as 9.7%. At this week's World Business Forum at New York's Radio City Music Hall, Joseph Stiglitz warned that, "Much higher unemployment is the new normal," according to China's Xinhua News Agency.
In Japan, investors turned their backs on exporters that are heavily dependent on U.S. sales. Isuzu Motors tumbled 1.8%, Fuji Heavy Industry, which exports Subarus and parts for Boeing airplanes, slid 0.7% and Honda slipped 0.3%. Some car companies advanced with Mitsubishi Motor climbing 2.9% and Nissan and Mazda both adding 1.4%.
But Japanese retailers that sell to locals were up thanks to lower interest rates at home. Aeon, one of Japan's largest retailers, leaped 6%, Seven & I Holdings, owner of the 7-Eleven Japan chain with indispensable, one-stop shopping for postage stamps, bill payment, fireworks and snacks like rice balls and barbecued squid, rallied 3.9%. J. Front Retailing rose 3.2% and clothing big shot Fast Retailing gained 0.8%. Marui Group, which runs department stores with the cool "OIOI" logo and also has a credit card business, climbed 2.7%, Takashimaya rose 2.4% and UNY added 1.3%.
Developers, which have lots to gain from the even lower interest rates, rallied today. Heiwa Real Estate soared 4.7%, Mitsubishi Estate climbed 2.2%, Sumitomo Realty & Development rose 1.7% and Mitsui Fudosan gained 1.4%. Builders fared even better with Obayashi shooting up 5.7% and Taisei Corp. advancing 4.5%. Both companies have projects under construction around the world.
Among financial firms, Shinsei Bank skyrocketed 10.2%, building on recent gains after Credit Suisse raised the company's rating earlier in the week. Sumitomo Trust & Banking surged 4.3% and Mitsubishi UFJ rose 1%.
In Hong Kong, exporters reliant on employed Americans to buy their goods also declined. Li & Fung, a major supplier to Wal-Mart, Abercrombie and Target, dropped 1.1% and Esprit dipped 0.1%. Bossini, a clothing chain popular among Hong Kongers for cute and practical children's wear and basics for adults, reaped a 2.6% gain and Belle International, a trendy shoe store chain with major operations in China inched up 0.1%.
Internet and telecom companies closed lower today with China Unicom slumping 2.3% and Tencent falling 1.5%.