Filomena Scalise

Tokyo - Asian stocks struggled on Thursday as investors waited for stimulus-sensitive US payroll data, although the euro perked up ahead of the European Central Bank's policy meeting.

The Australian dollar slipped after a weak labour force report showed a big fall in full-time employment - undermining a popular view that the Reserve Bank of Australia has finished cutting interest rates.

All eyes will be on Friday's nonfarm payrolls data for a chance to gauge when the Federal Reserve might begin winding down its $85-billion-a-month bond-buying programme, which is linked to falling unemployment.

Before that, investors will look to the first reading of US third-quarter GDP data later in the day. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a 2.0 percent annualised rate of growth compared with 2.5 percent in the second quarter.

“Buying is paused now as investors are looking for fresh macro cues,” said Isao Kubo, equity strategist at Nissay Asset Management.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.4 percent after ending flat on Wednesday to break a four-day run of losses.

Japan's Nikkei share average eased 0.4 percent.

The euro hovered near one-week highs against the dollar as strong German data prompted investors to scale back expectations of an ECB rate cut at its policy meeting later in the global day.

“Had the PMIs stepped down sharply, the ECB could have justified a cut, especially given last week's inflation print,” analysts at JPMorgan wrote in a note.

“The recent data enables them to wait till December and announce the rate cut as part of their broader inflation/growth forecasting exercise.”

The euro was steady at $1.3515, having risen 0.3 percent on Wednesday on the slight shift in expectations.

Against a basket of major currencies, the dollar was little changed after falling 0.2 percent in the previous session.

The euro was also aided by new research papers from two top Fed economists calling for the US central bank to drive down unemployment by promising to hold interest rates lower for longer.

That helped drive US stocks firmer overnight, with the Dow Jones industrial average at a record high, while the S&P 500 index closed shy of its own record.

US S&P E-mini futures dipped 0.2 percent in Asian trade on Thursday.

Australian shares slipped 0.4 percent as index heavyweights National Australia Bank Ltd and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group traded ex-dividend.

The Australian dollar shed 0.6 percent to $0.9469 after news just 1 100 net new jobs were created in October, with a severe fall in full-time places.

Among commodities, US crude prices added 0.1 percent to around $94.9 a barrel, building on Wednesday's 1.7 percent gain from four-month lows on an unexpectedly large fall in US fuel supplies.

Gold edged down 0.1 percent to about $1,31.6.5 an ounce, pausing after gaining 0.5 percent overnight. - Reuters