Asian markets mixed, China data offsets US jobs news

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed Monday after another record-breaking performance on Wall Street while Shanghai dipped as disappointing economic data fuelled concerns about China’s economy.

The dollar got a boost from better-than-forecast US jobs figures, hitting multi-year highs against the yen.

Tokyo rose 0.53 percent, or 65.43 points, to 12,349.05, while Sydney added 0.46 percent, or 23.5 points, to 5,146.9 — its highest close since September 2008.

Seoul eased 0.13 percent, losing 2.66 points to close at 2,003.35, while in afternoon trade Shanghai was off 0.26 percent and Hong Kong was up 0.24 percent.

In Washington the Labor Department reported the United States generated a net 236,000 new jobs in February, far more than expected, pulling the unemployment rate down to a four-year low of 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent.

The report reinforced views that the economy is solidifying its recovery, while analysts said underlying figures and upcoming spending cuts meant the Federal Reserve was unlikely to take its foot off its monetary easing soon.

On Wall Street the Dow broke the 14,400 line for the first time, before finishing at 14,397.07, up 0.47 percent and a new record for a fourth straight session.

The S&P 500 also rose 0.45 percent to 1,551.18, approaching its own record high, while the Nasdaq added 0.38 percent.

And on forex markets the greenback rallied in New York more than a yen Friday to end at 95.97 yen.

In Tokyo trade Monday the dollar bought 96.05 yen, while the euro stood at $1.3007 and 124.92 yen, from $1.3004 and 124.83 yen in New York on Friday.

The strong performance in the United States was slightly overshadowed by results from Beijing Saturday that showed inflation at a 10-month high of 3.2 percent in February while growth in industrial output and retail sales slowed.

Inflation is a key issue for the ruling Communist Party as it raises the chances of popular discontent over climbing prices and the threat of social unrest.

The figures raise concerns that the pick-up in the economy may be slowing while dealers are also worried the government will unveil tightening measures to temper prices.

“The world’s largest economy continues to recover, while the world’s second-largest economy looks like it has run into a bit of a soft patch,” Matthew Sherwood, head of investment market research at Perpetual in Sydney, told Dow Jones Newswires.

Oil prices eased, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April down 20 cents at $91.75 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for April dipping 37 cents to $110.48 in afternoon trade.

Gold was at $1,581.25 at 0630 GMT compared with $1,578.68 late Friday.

In other markets:

— Taipei rose 0.29 percent, or 23.58 points, to 8,038.72.

Fubon Financial Holding added 2.33 percent to Tw$44.0, while MediaTek was 0.57 percent higher at Tw$350.0.

— Wellington closed up 0.29 percent, or 12.55 points, at 4,366.58.

Telecom added 2.77 percent to NZ$2.42, Chorus rose 0.34 percent to NZ$2.91 and FletcherBuilding was down 0.43 percent at NZ$9.26.