Asian shares mixed after US jobs, HK protests peter

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HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed on Monday after a strong US jobs report showed unemployment at a six-year low, while the dollar held on to most of the gains enjoyed at the end of last week.

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Hong Kong shares tacked on a second straight day of gains as civil servants returned to work while pro-democracy protests that have shut down parts of the city thinned out.

Tokyo rallied 0.95 percent and Hong Kong added 0.24 percent, but Sydney eased 0.42 percent and Seoul was 0.15 percent off.

Shanghai, Singapore, Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur were closed for public holidays.

The US Labor Department said Friday that the world’s biggest economy created 248,000 jobs in September and the jobless rate dipped to a six-year low of 5.9 percent.

The report—which is welcome news after a weak showing in August—is the latest batch of data indicating the economy is on track to recovery.

It also helped take attention from recent concerns about the economies of China and Europe and the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the US.

Wall Street rallied, with the Dow climbing 1.24 percent, the S&P 500 jumping 1.12 percent and the Nasdaq up 1.03 percent.

On currency markets the dollar surged as investors bet the improved jobs situation will put further pressure on the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates sooner than its mid-2015 timetable.

The greenback was at 109.60 yen in Asian trade against 109.75 yen in New York, but sharply up from 108.98 yen in Tokyo earlier Friday.

The euro was at $1.2519 against $1.2514 in US trade, while it was also quoted at 137.23 yen against 137.33 yen.

In Hong Kong, traders were more upbeat as protests that blocked some of the city’s busiest roads last week seemed to be petering out.

The city’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had insisted government offices must reopen on Monday, warning he would “take all necessary actions to restore social order.”

Fearing a repeat of scenes a week ago when police fired tear gas and pepper spray, many demonstrators went home, leaving a devoted core.

There were hopes of a breakthrough Sunday when student leader Lester Shum met mid-ranking officials with the aim of setting conditions for a meeting with Leung’s deputy Carrie Lam. However, no agreement was announced.

On oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for November delivery was up seven cents at $89.81. On Friday it closed below $90 for the first time since April 2013.

Brent North Sea crude eased 16 cents to $92.15, a two-year low.

Gold was at $1,187.60 an ounce against $1,207.74 on Friday.

AFP

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