Asia markets mixed after last week's hefty losses


Hong Kong (AFP)

Asian markets were mixed Monday as bargain-buying from last week's sharp losses was offset by a weak US jobs report and ongoing concerns about the global economy.

Investors ran for the hills Friday after the European Central Bank slashed its growth and inflation forecasts, and China announced a plunge in exports and imports.

Later that day the Labor Department said the US economy created just 20,000 jobs last month, a fraction of what was expected.

The readings from across the world knocked equity markets, which have enjoyed a stellar start to the year on hopes that China and the United States will resolve their trade war.

In early trade Hong Kong rose 0.4 percent and Shanghai rallied 0.9 percent while Tokyo went into the break 0.2 percent higher. Jakarta and Taipei were also slightly higher.

But Sydney, Seoul, Singapore and Wellington suffered fresh losses.

"The almost forgotten US-China trade talks have been subsumed in a cacophony of data noise but remain the only game in town and will set the macroeconomic tone for the rest of (the first half of) 2019," said OANDA senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley.

"Until then, traders and investors will have itchy trigger fingers across most asset classes."

- Brexit back in focus -

Traders are keeping a close eye on developments in the trade talks, with conflicting comments from both sides on the progress.

China's vice minister for commerce Wang Shouwen said Saturday that Beijing was upbeat, a day after Donald Trump on Friday said he remained optimistic but would not sign anything but a "very good deal".

The two sides were thought to be readying for a Trump-Xi meeting at the end of March, but the US ambassador to China said Friday that they were not yet ready for a summit and deal signing.

The pound was unable to recover from last week's losses with Prime Minister Theresa May struggling to get the necessary revisions to her Brexit agreement that would be passed by MPs.

"With no further concessions... likely from the EU -- and talks were described as being close to breaking down -- Theresa May is now unlikely to present the changes required to win and the most probable scenario is that parliament then moves to vote on whether or not to exit the union without a deal, on Wednesday," said James Hughes, chief market analyst at AxiTrader.

However, he added: "That there will be a delay is currently the consensus expectation. How this will affect sterling pairs is anyone's guess. Over the last few months, anything that points to either a delay or Brexit not happening at all has led to the upside in the pound."

- Key figures at 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 21,069.93 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.4 percent at 28,328.98

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.9 percent at 2,996.28

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1224 from $1.1233 at 2140 GMT on Friday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 111.02 yen from 111.15 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2970 from $1.3016

Euro/pound: UP at 86.54 pence from 86.30 pence

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP nine cents at $56.16 per barrel

Oil - Brent Crude: UP five cents at $65.79 per barrel

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.1 percent at 25,450.24 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.7 percent at 7,104.31 (close)