Asia stocks muted on slack US jobs data; Nikkei up

Asian stock markets muted on disappointing US jobs data but Nikkei jumps as yen slides

Associated Press
Markets recover after US jobs disappointment
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Money traders work under a screen indicating the U.S. dollar is trading at 98.500 yen at a foreign exchange company in Tokyo, Monday, April 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets were mixed Monday amid concerns about tensions on the Korean Peninsula, bird flu in China and a disappointing U.S. jobs report, although the Nikkei piled on more gains as the yen's dramatic fall boosted the country's powerhouse export sector.

The Japanese yen has weakened sharply in the aftermath of a surprise decision Thursday by the Bank of Japan to overhaul its monetary policy, pledging to double the money supply to achieve a 2 percent inflation target within two years.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shot up 2.4 percent to 13,141.35. The dollar vaulted to 98.56 yen from 94.13 yen late Friday in New York.

A weaker currency can help make Japanese exports more price competitive in overseas markets. Suzuki Motor Corp. surged 6.6 percent. Sharp Corp. advanced 5.4 percent.

"In contrast to sentiment a few months ago, Japan is now winning support for its monetary policy," said analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in a market commentary.

Elsewhere, however, markets were mixed after the U.S. government reported a sharp decline in hiring in March.

U.S. employers added just 88,000 jobs in March, which was half the average of the previous six months. The closely watched report was a letdown for investors who had become more optimistic about the economy after recent positive signs on housing.

South Korea's Kospi was flat at 1,927.04, with tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang remaining high. North Korea has for weeks been threatening military or other action to punish South Korea and the U.S. for holding joint military drills.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index bounced between gains and losses as investors sized up the potential threat from an outbreak of a new bird flu strain that has sickened 21 people, killing six of them. All cases have been reported in the eastern part of China. The Hang Seng by midday was up 0.1 percent to 21,750.66.

Health officials believe people are contracting the virus through direct contact with infected fowl and say there's no evidence the virus is spreading easily between people.

"Bird flu and the North Korea situation are still dangling out there. Investors are not very bullish. They are waiting to see how these two things evolve," said Jackson Wong, vice president of Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 4,907.70, with investors putting aside the worrisome U.S. jobs report to do some bargain-hunting among some recently beaten down shares.

Gold-related stocks rose as the price of the precious metal recovered. Newcrest Mining, Australia's No. 1 gold miner, advanced 1.7 percent. Hong Kong-listed Zijin Mining Group added 1.7 percent.

On Wall Street on Friday, stocks wilted after the U.S. government reported a sharp slowdown in hiring. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.3 percent, to 14,565.25. The Standard & Poor's 500 declined 6.70 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,553.28. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.7 percent to 3,203.86.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 17 cents to $92.87 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 56 cents to close at $92.70 in New York on Friday.

The euro rose to $1.2986 from $1.2822.

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