Asian markets mostly gain on upbeat US, China economic data

SEOUL, South Korea - Asian stock markets kicked off the week mostly higher on Monday as investor sentiment was boosted by the U.S. monthly job report showing a sustained recovery in the labour market and a rebound in Chinese manufacturing activity.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo stocks turned lower with Nikkei 225 finishing 0.3 per cent lower 16,123.27. Seoul's Kospi edged up 0.3 per cent at 1,978.97 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.1 per cent to 5,001.70. Stocks in Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines were also higher. Stock markets in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan were closed for a holiday.

ANALYST'S QUOTE: "This month's job data, together with strong job growth over the last few months, will help to maintain investor's confidence in the U.S. economy and reduce worries of a recession," said Margaret Yang, a market analyst at CMC Markets Singapore. But the latest U.S. job report will have a limited impact on the market's expectations of another rate hike this year, Yang said. "Much stronger job growth numbers and rising inflation is probably needed to put pressure on the Fed to raise rates faster."

U.S. JOBS: The U.S. government said Friday that job growth continued at a strong clip in March. Employers added 215,000 jobs last month, a solid figure but not enough to keep up with the new job-seekers. The result was slightly stronger than investors expected but was consistent with hiring over the last few years, showing employers were confident enough to add staff even though overall economic growth slowed down. More people also looked for work and wages edged higher.

CHINA MANUFACTURING: China's manufacturing activity rebounded in March to its highest level since late August, official data showed on Friday. The purchasing managers' index came in at 50.2 in March, up from February's 49, Xinhua News Agency reported citing official data. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks climbed higher Friday after the government said job growth continued at a strong pace last month. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 107.66 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 17,792.75. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 13.04 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 2,072.78. The Nasdaq composite index gained 44.69 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 4,914.54. Stocks haven't made many sharp moves in recent weeks, but have drifted gradually higher.

OIL: Oil prices were under selling pressure after reports that Saudi Arabia would freeze its production only if Iran and other producers agreed to do the same. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 50 cents to $36.29 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.55 on Friday to close at $36.79. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 43 cents to $38.22 in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro weakened to $1.1389 from $1.1394 while the dollar fell to 111.343 yen from 111.655 yen.

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