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Asia: Markets up after US jobs but dollar struggles

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[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly rose on Monday following last week's forecast-busting US jobs report but the dollar struggled against most other currencies, with this week's expected Federal Reserve interest rate hike already accounted for.

Friday's employment report reinforced a long-running belief the world's top economy was on a strong growth track and focus is now on the conclusion of the central bank's policy meeting Wednesday, hoping for clues about the next increase.

The Japanese and British central banks also meet this week.

The dollar edged up but was unable to hold above the 115 yen mark breached briefly last week, while the euro benefitted from speculation the European Central Bank could start tightening monetary policy as the region's economy shows signs of improvement.

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The greenback was also down against most high-yielding units with South Korea's won 0.8 per cent higher and the Australian dollar 0.2 per cent up.

Most stock markets in Asia started the week on a high - tracking all three main Wall Street indexes - after the Labor Department said the economy created 235,000 new jobs in February, much more than estimated.

"There's some initial upside from the jobs report but most people are waiting and watching to see what the central banks say later in the week," Andrew Sullivan, managing director for sales trading at Haitong International Securities Group in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg News.

By the break Tokyo was up 0.2 per cent, while Hong Kong added 0.6 per cent and Shanghai gained 0.1 per cent. Seoul jumped 1.1 per cent and Singapore put on 0.1 per cent, with Wellington, Manila and Taipei also showing strength.

Oil prices continued to suffer following last week's losses of about nine percent in both main contracts hit by a surprisingly big jump in US stockpiles, increased US shale production and concerns about a Opec-Russia led deal to cut output.

"For all the somewhat hopeful talk from industry experts about oil inventories running down later in the year, the fact remains that US shale has come back harder, faster and cheaper than anyone could have imagined," Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda, said in a note. "Talk is cheap, and oil is getting cheaper as well."