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Asian markets mixed after US jobs data

[HONG KONG] Asian shares were mixed on Monday after data last week showed a better-than-expected jump in US jobs creation, while Japan said its economy contracted more than initially thought in the third quarter.

The dollar continued its march upwards against the yen after Friday's employment figures increased expectations that the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates in the near future.

Tokyo was up 0.10 per cent, Hong Kong added 0.26 per cent, Sydney gained 1.08 percent and Seoul lost 0.12 per cent while Shanghai fell 0.10 per cent.

The US Labor Department said Friday the world's biggest economy added 321,000 jobs in November - 90,000 more than expected and the best performance in almost three years - with new positions across the board.

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The news is yet another indication that the United States is well on the recovery track and will put more pressure on the Fed to increase interest rates before its mid-2015 timetable.

Wall Street rallied in reaction, with the Dow climbing 0.33 per cent and the S&P 500 adding 0.16 per cent - both settling at record highs - while the Nasdaq gained 0.24 per cent.

The scale of the improvement in the employment figures was a positive surprise to just about everyone," said Morgan Stanley MUFG Securities senior equity strategist Norihiro Fujito.

"Fund managers are now guessing how soon the US Fed will start ratcheting up interest rates, which is helping to fuel the dollar's continued ascent," he told Dow Jones Newswires.

With talk of a rate hike gaining traction the dollar pushed higher against the yen in New York, ending the week at 121.44 yen, up from 120.16 yen earlier Friday in Japan.

On Monday the greenback bought 121.50 yen.

It also strengthened against the euro, which was also being sold on expectations the European Central Bank will embark on fresh easing measures early next year as the economy slumbers.

On Monday it bought US$1.2297, compared with US$1.2283 in New York and well off the US$1.2380 earlier Friday in Japan. The single currency was also at 149.26 yen against 149.16 yen in US trade.

The weaker yen provided support to exporters, offsetting data showing the Japanese economy shrank 0.5 per cent quarter-on-quarter in July-September, worse than the 0.4 per cent first estimated and confirming a recession.

The result was worse then the 0.1 per cent contraction expected and highlights the problems Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has in kickstarting the economy just under two weeks short of a general election.

Oil prices extended losses in Asia after falling to five-year lows on Friday following OPEC's decision last month to maintain output levels despite a supply glut.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for January delivery was down 81 US cents to US$65.03, around its lowest level since July 2009 on Friday.

Brent crude for January fell 96 US cents to US$68.11, a mark not seen since October 2009.

Gold was at US$1,193.41 an ounce, compared with US$1,203.58 late Friday.