TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares got off on the back foot on Friday, on track for a weekly loss, following Wall Street lower as caution reigned ahead of U.S. employment data that may help determine whether the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates as early as next month.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.3 percent in early trading, down about 1.6 percent for the week, after U.S. equities logged solid losses in the wake of disappointing earnings results.
Japan's Nikkei stock index fell 0.2 percent as investors awaited the outcome of the Bank of Japan's two-day policy meeting later this session, at which it is widely expected to maintain its stimulus program.
The key focus for investors will came later in the global day, when economists expect the U.S. employment report to show that 223,000 jobs were created in July. On Thursday, U.S. jobless claims rose from the previous week, though the positive trend was intact.
"Today's report on the US labor market is likely to be of even greater than usual interest because of the Fed's 'data dependent' approach to policy in what remains of 2015," strategists at Barclays said.
The dollar index stood at 97.810, on track for a weekly gain of about 0.5 percent, its second straight weekly rise as this week's economic data backed expectations that the U.S. central bank will deliver a rate hike next month.
The dollar was steady on the day at 124.73 yen, while the euro edged slightly higher to $1.0924.
Sterling was not far from overnight lows hit after the Bank of England sent a dovish message, with only one member voting for an immediate rate hike versus expectations for at least twomembers. The pound was flat at $1.5511, after falling as low as $1.5465.
In commodities trading, U.S. crude futures edged up after dropping to multi-month lows overnight after a large drop in U.S. crude inventories failed to boost prices.
U.S. crude was up about 0.2 percent at $44.76 after skidding as low as $44.20 on Thursday, not far from the six-year low of $42.05 hit in March. Brent rose 0.2 percent to $49.62 a barrel, pulling away from Thursday's six-month low.