Asian stocks down as jitters over sliding oil price offset another month of strong US hiring

Markets Associated Press

Asian stock markets were mostly lower Monday as worries about the slide in the oil price offset another month of strong hiring in the U.S.

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KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index lost 2.1 percent to 3,215.77 and Seoul's Kospi shed 0.2 percent to 1,920.31. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.1 percent to 23,941.10 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.8 percent to 5,424.70. Markets in Southeast Asia were lower. Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.

U.S. ECONOMY: A healthy month of hiring in December capped the best year for U.S. job growth since 1999, demonstrating that employers are more confident than they've been since the Great Recession began. Nearly 3 million jobs were added in 2014, and continued solid hiring is expected to propel the economy this year to its fastest growth in a decade. The gains are putting further distance between the strengthening American economy and struggling nations overseas. But there was one discouraging sign: hourly pay declined by 5 cents in December.

ENERGY: Oil slipped below $48 a barrel Monday and is down 44 percent in the past three months, reflecting high supplies and muted demand from much of the world. Benchmark U.S. crude was down 79 cents to $47.57 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract shed 43 cents on Friday to close at $48.36. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 79 cents to $49.32 in London after losing 85 cents on Friday to $50.11.

THE QUOTE: "If lower oil prices owe to a surge in supply, that would be the end of it and the global economy would be so much the better off in the end," said DBS Group in a report. "But if prices are down because of weak demand instead, all bets are off. Economies, including the US, would be no better off."

WALL STREET: A turbulent week of trading ended Friday with U.S. stocks finishing lower for the third time in five days. The decline followed two days of big gains and nudged major indexes lower for the year. The Standard & Poor's 500 shed 17.33 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,044.81. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 170.50 points, or about 1 percent, to 17,737.37. The Nasdaq composite lost 32.12 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,704.07.

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CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.1856 from $1.1844 late Friday. The dollar fell to 118.28 yen from 118.54 yen.