Via Yahoo Finance

Stocks in Asia were muted on Friday morning ahead of the upcoming release of the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report, which may provide clues as to whether the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates at its monetary policy meeting at the end of July.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 and Topix were near flat in early trade.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Kospi saw fractional gains, even though shares of industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics fell more than 1% after reporting that second-quarter profit likely dropped 56% as compared to a year ago.

Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 added 0.26%.

U.S. markets were closed on Thursday for the July 4 holiday.

Investors will be awaiting the release of the nonfarm payrolls report stateside later in the day, with expectations for U.S. private payroll employment to have grown by 153,000 in June, according to economists in a Reuters poll. That compares to a figure of 90,000 from the previous month. Total non-farm employment is expected to have changed by 160,000.

On Wednesday, a report from ADP and Moody’s Analytics showed private payrolls rising by 102,000 in June.

A weaker-than-expected figure from the upcoming payrolls report could increase bets that the Fed will cut interest rates at its upcoming meeting on July 30 and 31. The central bank opened the door to easier monetary policy last month by stating it will “act as appropriate” to maintain the current economic expansion.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.720 after seeing levels around 96.3 earlier in the week.

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The Japanese yen traded at 107.83 against the dollar after weakening from levels around 107.7 yesterday, while the Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7025 after slipping from levels around $0.704 in the previous session.

Oil prices were mixed in Asia morning trading hours, with the international benchmark Brent crude futures contract just above the flatline at $63.32 per barrel, while U.S crude futures slipped 0.96% to $56.79 per barrel.

— Reuters contributed to this report.