TOKYO – Asian stock markets were lackluster Monday as weak data added to jitters about China's economy and the monthly U.S. jobs report reinforced expectations for a Fed interest rate hike.
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KEEPING SCORE: China bucked the general trend with the Shanghai Composite Index jumping 3.2 percent to 3,862.07. That continues a pattern of volatile trading since a sizzling rally peaked in early June. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 was up 0.1 percent at 20,740.86 after flitting between gains and losses. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 0.1 percent at 24,530.24. South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.5 percent 2,000.98. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.4 percent to 5,495.40. Markets in Southeast Asia were mixed.
CHINA TRADE: China's July trade shrank by unexpectedly wide margins, showing the world's second-largest economy faces weak demand both at home and abroad. Exports contracted by 8.3 percent over a year earlier and imports were off by 8.1 percent. For the year to date, exports are off 14.6 percent and imports down by 0.8 percent. That increases pressure on Beijing to stimulate domestic growth and to avert politically sensitive job losses in export industries.
THE QUOTE: Much of China's east coast has developed service industries that are bearing up well under the slowdown, but the government is increasingly concerned about supporting the industrial north, said IG market analyst Angus Nicholson in a commentary. "Further rate cuts and fiscal stimulus into fixed asset investment are likely to be in the pipeline," he said.
U.S. JOBS: The U.S. added 215,000 jobs in July, the Labor Department said Friday, another signal that the job market is steadily improving and providing a key piece of data for the Federal Reserve as it assesses whether the U.S. economy can withstand higher interest rates. The Fed has flagged that it will raise interest rates from record lows this year and a rate hike is expected in September or December.
WALL STREET: U.S. stocks fell Friday after the jobs report. It was the seventh straight day of declines for the Dow Jones industrial average, the longest losing streak for the index since July 2011. The Dow lost 46.37 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,373.38. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 5.99 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,077.57. The Nasdaq composite fell 12.90 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,043.54.
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ENERGY: U.S. crude was down 26 cents to $43.61 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, nearing a six-year low of $43.46 set on March 17. Crude fell 7 percent last week. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 36 cents at $48.25 on the ICE exchange in London.
CURENCIES: The dollar rose to 124.38 yen from 124.22 yen on Friday. The euro fell to $1.0963 from $1.0969.