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GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian stocks set to fall as Wall St slips on recovery doubts

WASHINGTON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Asian stocks were set to pull back on Friday, following a dip on Wall Street as disappointing U.S. jobs data fanned concerns the economic recovery from the coronavirus was losing momentum.

Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.49% in early trading, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures were down 0.08%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures were down 0.44%.

The MSCI’s global stock index was up 0.06%.

An unexpected increase in the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits weighed on markets across the board Thursday. The Labor Department reported initial unemployment claims rose by 13,000 to 861,000, injecting skepticism about how quickly the U.S. economy could rebound from the global pandemic.

At the same time, investors continued to eye the risks about higher inflation once the economy kicks back into gear and the upward pressure that might put on interest rates.

“With improved vaccination rollout, the world will be quick to normalize. With additional fiscal stimulus providing rocket fuel to the inflationary fire, it’s hard not to think more rates pain will hit many asset classes,” wrote Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at Axi.

On Wall Street, stocks fell as investors stepped away from large technology firms and a surprise jump in U.S. jobless claims injected some skepticism into the market that had seen record highs earlier in the week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.38%, the S&P 500 lost 0.44%, and the Nasdaq Composite 0.72%.

U.S. Treasury yields were down as well Thursday on waning risk appetite. The benchmark 10-year yield, which touched 1.333% on Wednesday, its highest level in nearly a year, was last down 1.3 basis points at 1.2855%.

The dollar also eased following the weak U.S. jobs data. The dollar index was off 0.33% at 90.601 following two straight days of gains, while the euro and yen both gained ground.

Oil markets saw some profit taking on Thursday, driving down prices after days of gains driven by a deep freeze across Texas that weighed on production. Brent crude fell 41 cents, or 0.6%, to settle at $63.93 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 62 cents, or 1%, to settle at $60.52 a barrel.

Copper surged nearly 3% to its highest since April 2012 as Chinese investors returning from a week-long holiday added impetus to a rally that has almost doubled prices from lows last March, when coronavirus worries peaked.

Spot gold was down 0.08% at $1,774.76 an ounce.

Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Sam Holmes

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