Asia stocks quiet, dollar supported after upbeat US jobs data

A digital board displays stock information at a brokerage office in Beijing, China. (Reuters pic)

TOKYO: Asia stocks were barely moved on Monday, staying near a four-month high after Wall Street’s tepid pre-weekend performance, while the dollar was supported against the yen following strong US jobs and manufacturing data.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was basically unchanged, capped below the four-month peak scaled on Friday.

South Korea’s KOSPI dipped 0.6% while Japan’s Nikkei added 0.4%.

China’s financial markets are closed all week for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Wall Street ended mixed on Friday, as optimism from a surge in January US job growth was offset by a weaker-than-expected outlook from that battered retail stocks.

The Dow nudged up 0.26% while the Nasdaq shed 0.25%.

“Key points for the markets this week will be how the remaining US corporate earnings releases turn out, and whether they are in line with recent upbeat data,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior FX strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.

“While corporate earnings and fundamentals remain key, political developments, notably the US-China trade situation, remain potential risk factors,” he said.

A US Labor Department report on Friday showed nonfarm payrolls jumped by a stronger-than-forecast 304,000 jobs last month, the largest gain since Feb 2018.

That report, along with better-than-expected ISM manufacturing activity numbers for January, pointed to underlying strength in the world’s biggest economy.

The robust economic data triggered a sharp rebound in US Treasury yields, in turn lifting the dollar.

On Monday, the US currency was a shade higher at 109.55 yen after advancing 0.6% on Friday.

The euro was little changed at US$1.1455 after getting pulled back from a high of US$1.1488 on Friday.

The Australian dollar was steady at US$0.7250 after slipping 0.4% the previous session.

The benchmark 10-year US Treasury yield was at 2.691% after climbing nearly 6 basis points on Friday to pull away from a four-week low of 2.619% earlier last week.

US crude oil futures inched down 0.04% to US$55.24 per barrel after surging 2.7% on Friday.

Oil prices had rallied on the upbeat US jobs report, signs that Washington’s sanctions on Venezuelan exports have helped tighten supply and data showing US drillers cut the number of oil rigs.