World stocks higher as jobs report shrugged off

Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — World stock markets were mostly higher Monday as investors shrugged off weak U.S. employment figures and looked forward with optimism to earnings season.

Oil stayed above $92 a barrel but gave up some gains after soaring more than $1 on Friday on expectations weak job numbers might prompt the U.S. Federal Reserve to reconsider plans to reduce its stimulus.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added 0.2 percent to 22,888.76 and Seoul's Kospi rose 0.5 percent to 1,948.92. China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.2 percent to 2,009.5. Tokyo was closed for a holiday.

In Europe, France's CAC-40 added 0.1 percent to 4,254 and Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent to 6,748.05. Germany's DAX was little changed at 9.476.14.

On Wall Street, the futures for the Dow Jones Industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 index both fell by 0.1 percent.

Markets quickly dismissed Friday's unexpectedly weak data showing a sharp decline in hiring by American companies last month. Analysts said it was a fluke, due partly to bitterly cold weather, following weeks of data showing the U.S. economy improving.

"We see no convincing evidence that the weakness represents the start of a trend," said Jim O'Sullivan of High-Frequency Economics in a report.

Analysts said there was little chance the jobs numbers might prompt the Fed to reconsider its plans to wind down stimulus.

The Fed has been buying $85 billion of bonds per month to force down interest rates and spur economic growth, helping to buoy stock prices. The Fed said in December it would reduce its purchases by $10 billion per month to $75 billion beginning this month due to an improving economy.

Market benchmarks in India, New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia rose. Sydney bucked the trend, with its S&P/ASX 200 shedding 0.4 percent to 5,292.10.

Thailand's SET index gained 1.1 percent despite street protests by anti-government activists aimed at shutting down swathes of Bangkok and forcing the Thai prime minister from office. Analysts warned the Thai economy and currency could suffer if the protests continue.

"We expect the blockade of Bangkok to have an increasingly negative impact as the month progresses," said Credit Agricole CIB in a report.

Investors elsewhere were encouraged as they looked ahead to U.S. corporate earnings due to be reported in coming weeks.

"Expectations are fairly buoyant," said Evan Lucas of Australia's IG Markets in a report. He said expectations are for a 9 percent increase in profits due to improved economic conditions.

The U.S. jobs data Friday showed companies added 74,000 workers in December, the smallest increase since January 2011. The unemployment rate fell by 0.3 percentage points to 6.7 percent, but that was largely due to people dropping out of the labor force.

In currency markets, the dollar fell to 103.41 yen from 103.95 yen late Friday. The euro dropped to $1.3660 from $1.3676.

Crude oil for February delivery shed 36 cents to $92.36 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract soared $1.06 the previous session to settle at $92.72.

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