Asian markets mixed, China data offsets US jobs news

PHOTO: 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 0.85 per cent, Sydney added 0.12 per cent, Seoul eased 0.85 per cent, Hong Kong was up 0.58 per cent and Shanghai was off 0.17 per cent.

In Washington the Labor Department reported that 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 per cent from 7.9 per cent.

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 per cent and a new record for a fourth straight session.

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

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

In early Tokyo trade Monday the dollar bought 96.20 yen, while the euro stood at US$1.2992 (S$1.62) and 124.98 yen (S$1.62), from US$1.3004 (S$1.63) 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 per cent 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.

Oil prices eased, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, falling 22 cents to US$91.73 (S$115) a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for April delivery dipping 38 cents to US$110.47 (S$137).

Gold was at US$1,581.40 (S$1972) at 0200 GMT compared with US$1,578.68 (S$1979) late Friday.