By Gina Lee – Asia Pacific stocks were mixed Friday morning, finding their feet on the first trading day of July. Investors await U.S. employment data even as they continue digesting economic data from the U.S. and China.

South Korea’s KOSPI inched up 0.10% by10 PM ET (2 AM GMT). According to data released earlier in the day, the country’s consumer price index rose a lower-than-expected 2.4% year-on-year in June.

China’s Shanghai Composite slid 1.45% and the Shenzhen Component fell 1.27%. The Caixin purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for June, released on Thursday, was also a lower-than-expected 51.3.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 1.4%, with markets reopening after a holiday.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 was up 0.34% and in Australia, the ASX 200 was up 0.28%.

U.S. shares steadied after the S&P 500 posted its longest winning streak since February 2021. Economic data released on Thursday said that the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) manufacturing PMI was a slightly lower-than-expected 60.6 in June and that a lower-than-forecast 364,000 initial jobless claims were filed throughout the past week.

Investors now await the country’s jobs report for June, including non-farm payrolls, due later in the day. The data is expected to provide clues as to when the U.S. Federal Reserve could begin the asset tapering and interest rate hikes hinted at in June’s policy decision.

Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker said cutting asset purchases by $10 billion a month might be reasonable and that he favored starting the process in 2021, according to a report. The International Monetary Fund also predicted that the central bank could begin asset tapering in the first half of 2022, and hike interest rates later in 2022 or in early 2023.

“With economic and earnings growth prospects robust, policy accommodative, and valuations still appealing relative to bonds, we believe the current environment is supportive of further equity gains,” UBS Global Wealth Management chief investment officer Mark Haefele said in a note.

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Across the Atlantic, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde will also speak later in the day.

Meanwhile, the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus remains a concern, with the U.S. warning that it could eclipse other variants in the nation within weeks. Hong Kong also said that a hotel cleaner has tested preliminarily positive for the variant, dashing hopes that the city has nipped its latest variant outbreak in the bud.

However, Johnson&Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) said its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine neutralizes the Delta variant and provides durable protection against infection more broadly, following Moderna Inc.'s (NASDAQ:MRNA) claims that its vaccine also offered protection against the variant earlier in the week.

In cryptocurrencies, Robinhood Markets Inc. turned investors’ attention towards the sector as it filed for an initial public offering on Thursday, saying that 17% of its first-quarter transaction-based revenue came from digital coins.

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