Asian markets track Wall St gains

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HONG KONG: Japanese stocks fell for a fifth straight session on Monday as the yen strengthened against the dollar, while most other Asian markets turned positive after a better-than-expected US jobs report.

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Oil prices fell again after plunging about 4 percent Friday as Saudi Arabia suggested it could delay freezing output unless other key producers follow suit—fuelling worries about a meeting this month to address a global supply glut.

Wall Street traders provided a perfect lead for their Asian counterparts. All three main indexes rallied Friday after data showed the US economy added more jobs than expected in March while there was also a modest pick-up in hourly wages.

That was followed by a report showing US manufacturing activity increased in March for the first time in six months.

The news was the latest to highlight renewed strength in the world’s top economy, but analysts said the Federal Reserve would still not raise interest rates before June at least.

“Friday’s US labor market report was something of a middling result for markets,” Philip Borkin, a senior economist in Auckland at ANZ Bank New Zealand, said in a client note.

“On the one hand it was not really strong enough to suggest inflation pressures are going to run away on the Fed, but on the other, it certainly still showed, together with a rebound in [manufacturing data], that the economy is still performing well overall.”

With dealers betting that US rates will not rise for some time, the yen pushed up against the dollar, hitting Japanese exporters Monday. Tokyo’s Nikkei—which lost 3.55 percent Friday—ended down 0.3 percent. Sydney lost 0.1 percent but the rest of the region turned higher.

Oil extends losses
Singapore gained 0.4 percent, Seoul added 0.3 percent and Wellington put on 0.5 percent. There were also gains in Manila and Jakarta.

Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei were closed for a public holiday.

In early European trade London added 0.1 percent, while Frankfurt lost 0.1 percent and Paris slipped 0.3 percent.

Asian markets had plunged on Friday, led by Japan after a closely watched survey showed its businesses growing increasingly downbeat about the economic outlook.

The yen ticked higher against the dollar Monday as market-watchers said the greenback would likely not pick up in the near term with the Fed unlikely to lift rates any time soon.

On oil markets both main contracts sank again, with Brent down 1 percent and West Texas Intermediate 1.2 percent lower.

Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, suggested to Bloomberg News last week that the kingdom would only freeze output if the move was mirrored by Iran and other major producers.

Prices had been rising in March to levels above $40 a barrel after Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to holds talks with other crude majors to address a supply glut.

Adding pressure on the black gold, Iran said Sunday that its exports have surpassed two million barrels a day since nuclear-linked sanctions were lifted earlier this year.

The OPEC member has the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves and has moved ahead with an increase in exports despite global concerns over a supply glut that has seen prices dive from more than $100 a barrel in mid-2014.

AFP

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