HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets were mixed in holiday-thinned trade Monday, with Tokyo rising despite more weak growth data and a pick-up in the yen, while the pound hit a 10-month low against the dollar on fears over Scottish independence.
The disappointing data out of Washington on Friday dampened the prospects of an early Federal Reserve interest rate hike, which in turn helped the S&P 500 to another record.
Tokyo added 0.23 per cent, or 36.43 points, to 15,705.11 by the close but Sydney eased 0.39 per cent, or 21.7 points, to 5,577.0.
Hong Kong slipped 0.20 per cent, or 49.70 points, to 25,190.45 following a mixed bag of trade data out of China that pointed to ongoing softness in the mainland economy.
Shanghai, Seoul and Taipei were closed for public holidays.
The Labor Department said Friday the US added 142,000 new jobs in August, snapping a six-month streak of more than 200,000 jobs a month and far below the 223,000 tipped by analysts.
While the news shows the economy is still finding its feet, it will ease pressure on the Fed, which has faced growing calls to hike interest rates this year following a string of upbeat figures.
The S&P 500 rose 0.50 per cent to a record close, the Dow put on 0.40 per cent to narrowly miss an all-time high and the Nasdaq gained 0.45 per cent.
“US markets perceive data with optimism. Even the bad jobs figures have been interpreted as a likely sign that the Fed won’t speed up its stimulus tapering programme any time soon,” said SMBC Friend Securities strategist Toshihiko Matsuno.
With the prospect of US rates remaining at record lows until late next year, traders edged out of the dollar, although a fresh round of weak Japanese growth figures kept it from sinking against the yen.
The dollar bought 105.11 yen in Tokyo Monday, against 105.06 yen in New York. It is well off the 105.33 yen in early Tokyo trade Friday.
The euro bought $1.2935 and 135.98 yen against $1.2951 and 136.14 yen in New York.
The British pound bought $1.6208, its weakest since November and well down from $1.6323 in New York Friday, after a YouGov survey for the Sunday Times showed for the first time more people in Scotland could vote for independence from the United Kingdom than against.
The opinion poll has given a jolt to investors who had not envisaged a victory for the “Yes” campaign and so had not priced in the effects of a break-up of the UK.
In Asia, China said its trade surplus surged 77.8 per cent to a record $49.8 billion in August as exports rose while imports showed a surprise decline.
The results came on the heels of data showing softness in China’s economy during the current third quarter, with economists expecting Beijing to take further steps to boost growth.
Japan said Monday that its economy shrank 1.8 per cent on-quarter in April-June, worse than the previously estimated contraction of 1.7 per cent.
“The poor GDP revision … leads expectations for more Bank of Japan assistance to keep the economy going,” Matsuno told Dow Jones Newswires.
“At any rate, the currency market is not being adversely affected by normally depressing news, and thus the impact on the Nikkei is minimal.”
Official China data showed imports fell again in August and export growth slowed, while the country posted a record trade surplus
The news will do little to ease worries about the economy after a recent batch of disappointing data as a series of mini-stimulus measures have failed to kickstart growth.
On oil markets US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for October delivery fell 25 cents to $93.04 while Brent crude for October lost 46 cents to $100.31 in afternoon trade.
Gold was at $1,267.69 an ounce, against $1,265.46 late Friday.