Asia stocks drift after surprisinly weak US employment report

AP and AFP

HONG KONG–Asian stocks drifted Monday, with many markets closed for holidays and Wall Street closed Friday, after a surprisingly weak U.S. employment report.

U.S. employers added just 126,000 new jobs in March, the smallest gain since December 2013. That ended 12 straight months of gains above 200,000. Even so, the unemployment rate remained at 5.5 percent. For markets it was mixed news. It suggests the Federal Reserve won’t raise interest rates midyear but also indicates the economy weakened in the first quarter. Economic growth has been hampered this year by harsh winter weather, slowdowns at factories and lackluster construction activity. The government also cut its previous estimates of job gains in February and January by a combined 69,000.

��Friday’s big U.S. payrolls miss would typically have shocked markets into a big move,�� analyst Nicholas Teo at CMC Markets in Singapore said in a commentary. ��With the extended Easter weekend break, however, traders may have had the time to digest this huge blow, along with their chocolate eggs. Some were even willing to speculate that this sluggish momentum in U.S. job creation could persuade the Fed to move on rates later.��

U.S. government bond prices jumped and the dollar dipped on Friday following the employment report. The stock market was closed in observance of Good Friday. Traders saw the weaker-than-expected job gains in March as a sign that the Federal Reserve might delay raising interest rates. The rise in bond prices sent the yield on the 10-year Treasury down to its lowest level in two months.

Tokyo fell 0.19 percent, or 37.10 points, to 19,397.98 and Seoul was flat, edging up 1.01 points to close at 2,046.43. In late trade Singapore was marginally higher. Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Taipei, Sydney and Wellington were closed. A pick-up in the yen pushed shares in Japanese exporters down as it makes their goods more expensive abroad. ��We should see a correction in Japanese stocks as the stronger yen pushes down exporters,�� Shoji Hirakawa, chief equity strategist at Okasan Securities Co. in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News. Gold fetched US$1,218.32 against US$1,200.50 late Friday. In other markets: �X Manila closed 0.76 percent, or 60.65 points, higher at 8,053.74. Ayala Corp. was up 0.13 percent at 800 pesos, Metrobank gained 0.81 percent to 99.80 pesos and Universal Robina added 1.77 percent to 230 pesos. �X Mumbai rose 0.86 percent, or 244.32 points, to end at 28,504.46 points. Sun Pharmaceuticals Industries rose 8.34 percent to 1,168.50 rupees, while Tata Steel fell 1.84 percent to 318.05 rupees.