Asia: Markets track Wall St gains after US jobs data

[HONG KONG] Asian markets edged up Monday following a strong US jobs report with Japan's Nikkei rebounding from last week's sharp sell-off even as the yen strengthened against the dollar.

Oil prices fell again after plunging about four per cent Friday as Saudi Arabia suggested it could hold off freezing output if other key producers do not 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, with all three main indexes rallying after the 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 its manufacturing activity increased in March for the first time in six months.

The news was the latest to highlight the world's top economy is improving but analysts said it was not so impressive that the Federal Reserve will revise its view that interest rates will not go up before June.

"Friday's US labour 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." On Monday, Tokyo's Nikkei - which lost more than three per cent Friday - was up 0.2 per cent by the break. Sydney added 0.8 per cent, Singapore gained 0.4 per cent and Wellington put on 0.3 per cent. There were also gains in Manila and Jakarta.

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

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

The bargain-buying provided support to the Nikkei Monday, even as the yen ticked higher against the dollar, with market-watchers saying the greenback will not likely pick up in the near term with the Fed unlikely to lift rates anytime soon.

On oil markets both main contracts sank again, with Brent down one per cent and West Texas Intermediate 1.2 per cent lower. Saudi Arabia's deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, suggested to Bloomberg News last week that the kingdom would freeze output only if the move is mirrored by Iran and other major oil producers.

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

Adding pressure to the black gold, Iran said Sunday that its exports have surpassed 2 million barrels a day since nuclear-linked sanctions were lifted earlier this year by Western powers.

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 US$100 a barrel in mid-2014.


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