Asian traders extend global rally after US jobs data, eyes on Fed

Hong Kong (AFP) –


Most Asian markets rose Monday, tracking fresh records on Wall Street following forecast-busting US jobs data, as investors eyed the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting later this week.

US data on Friday showed 228,000 jobs were created last month and unemployment held at a 17-year low, reinforcing the view that the world's number one economy is in a healthy state.

The reading -- mixed with news of a breakthrough in Brexit talks, strong Chinese indicators and progress in US tax reform -- helped fire a rally in US equities, helping the Dow and S&P 500 to close at all-time highs.

Adding to the upbeat sentiment was an agreement by US lawmakers to keep funding the government to avert a painful shutdown.

The advance helped staunch a sell-off that has hit global markets for most of this month as traders wind down for the end of the year, while tech firms took a hit from profit-taking.

In Asian trade, Tokyo ended the morning slightly higher, while Hong Kong and Shanghai each added 0.2 percent, Singapore put on 0.4 percent and Taipei jumped 0.8 percent.

Sydney was flat but Seoul dipped 0.1 percent.

Eyes are on the Fed's last meeting of the year, which winds down on Wednesday. Most analysts expect the central bank to lift interest rates again, but they will be more interested in what boss Janet Yellen has to say about the timetable for future increases.

Bitcoin rose more than $1,300 to jump back above $16,000 following a sharp drop Friday on profit-taking after the cryptocurrency touched a record high above $17,000.

The unit is in focus after surging to multiple records since the start of December.

However, it made a muted debut as futures trading in the currency began on the Chicago board options exchange (Cboe) on a major global exchange.

The move is a milestone for Bitcoin, which has seen a buying frenzy by investors and prompted sceptics to warn of a bubble.

"The level of volatility the introduction will have is uncertain," said Shane Chanel, equities and derivatives adviser at ASR Wealth Advisers.

"However, the expectation of new money streaming into the market will likely result in an upward swing. We are seeing some major US banks speak out intensely against Bitcoin. However, most of the negativity is originating from individuals that have a vested interest in Bitcoin?s failure."

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 22,821.20 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 28,706.06

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 3,295.97

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1775 from $1.1766 at 2130 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3398 from $1.3391

Dollar/yen: UP at 113.66 yen from 113.46 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 20 cents at $57.16 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 28 cents at $63.12 per barrel

New York - DOW: UP 0.5 percent at 24,329.16 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 1.0 percent at 7,393.96 (close)