Asian stocks slipped on Thursday after Wall Street continued to pull back from record highs ahead of Friday's closely-watched U.S. jobs data, while the nervous euro languished at an 11-year low prior to the European Central Bank's policy meeting. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shed 0.2 percent. Risk asset markets, shored up by liquidity provided by easing-minded central banks around the world, will have a chance to confirm the easing stance of the European Central Bank when it holds a policy meeting later in the session. The ECB, which starts its quantitative easing (QE), or bond-buying, program of more than 1 trillion euros this month, is expected to detail the plan after the meeting.
The Institute for Supply Management on Wednesday said its services index was 56.9 in February, up slightly from 56.7 in January. Analysts were looking for a reading of 56.5, according to a Reuters poll.
China's Premier Li Keqiang said the world's second largest economy would target growth this year of around 7 percent, signaling the lowest expansion for a quarter of a century. In remarks prepared for delivery at the opening of China's annual parliamentary meeting in Beijing, Li vowed to fight corruption and pollution, and stressed the need for more painful reforms to support the economy in the longer term. The premier said China faced greater economic headwinds this year than in 2014. "The downward pressure on China's economy is intensifying," said Li.
By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. private employers added fewer jobs than expected last month, with the gains declining as well from January's revised level as growth slowed in some sectors, a payrolls processor report showed on Wednesday. The ADP National Employment Report, jointly developed with Moody's Analytics, showed a gain of 212,000 private-sector jobs. Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP to show a gain of 220,000 jobs. For instance, service-providing employment rose by 181,000 jobs in February, compared with growth of 206,000 in the sector in January.