12/01/2016 17:36 EST | Updated 12/02/2017 00:12 EST

Asian shares, oil fall ahead of US job data, Italian vote

HONG KONG — Asian stocks slipped and oil's rally fizzled Friday as wary investors awaited U.S. jobs data and Italy's referendum on constitutional reform.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 index shed 0.5 per cent to 18,425.45 and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.8 per cent to 1,967.91. Hong Kong's Hang Seng retreated 0.9 per cent to 22,670.74 and the Shanghai Composite Index was 0.3 per cent lower at 3,263.38. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.7 per cent to 5,460.70. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore also lost ground but Indonesian and Philippine indexes rose.

WORK REPORT: Economists expect the latest monthly report on U.S. jobs, due out after trading ends in Asia, to show that employers added 174,000 jobs, leaving the unemployment rate at 4.9 per cent, according to FactSet data. That would underscore the strength in the world's biggest economy and strengthen the case for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next month. Ultra-low rates have sustained an extended boom in shares.

REFERENDUM RISK: Italians head to the polls Sunday to vote on measures that Premier Matteo Renzi says will make the country more competitive. Renzi has promised to resign if voters choose "no." Market watchers say a rejection of the plan would raise uncertainty about Italy's government and banks.

ANALYST INSIGHT: "Reaction to the Italian Senate referendum being held on December 4 will no doubt impact investment markets early in the week ahead," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney. But he added, "we anticipate shares to be higher by year end as seasonal strength kicks in - the 'Santa rally' normally gets underway from around mid-December."

ENERGY: Oil snapped its rally after hitting its highest level since mid-October. Benchmark U.S. crude lost 21 cents to $50.86 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.62, or 3.3 per cent, to close at $51.06 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the standard for pricing international oils, shed 37 cents to $53.57 a barrel in London. Crude futures jumped earlier in the week after the members of OPEC, which collectively produce more than one-third of the world's oil, agreed to a small cut in production starting in January. "Crude seems to be trying to move to a new trading range each side of $55 a barrel," said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA.

WALL STREET: Gains from blue chips helped push the Dow Jones industrial average up 0.4 per cent to 19,191.93, its highest close on record. Other major U.S. benchmarks slipped. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 0.4 per cent to 2,191.08. The Nasdaq composite fell 1.4 per cent to 5,251.11.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged up to 114.01 yen from 113.78 yen in late trading Thursday. The Japanese currency is still near its highest in about 10 months. The euro rose to $1.0670 from $1.0665.