Asia's stock markets mixed; China data offsets US jobs news

HONG KONG (AFP) - Asian markets were mixed after another record-breaking performance on Wall Street, while Shanghai dipped as disappointing economic data fuelled concerns about China's economy.

Tokyo rose 0.53 per cent to 12,349.05, while Sydney added 0.46 per cent, to 5,146.9 - its highest close since September 2008. Seoul eased 0.13 per cent to close at 2,003.35, while Shanghai lost 0.35 per cent to end at 2,310.59, and Hong Kong was flat, dipping 1.13 points to 23,090.82.

In Washington, the Labour Department reported the United States generated 236,000 new jobs last month, far more than expected, pulling the unemployment rate down to a four-year low of 7.7 per cent from 7.9 per cent. The report reinforced views that the US economy is solidifying its recovery, while analysts said underlying figures and upcoming spending cuts meant the Federal Reserve was unlikely to take its foot off its monetary easing soon.

The strong performance in the US was slightly overshadowed by results from Beijing on Saturday that showed inflation at a 10-month high of 3.2 per cent in February while growth in industrial output and retail sales slowed. Inflation is a key issue for the ruling Communist Party as it raises the chances of popular discontent over climbing prices and the threat of social unrest.

The figures raise concerns that the pick-up in the economy may be slowing while dealers are also worried the government will unveil tightening measures to temper prices.

"The world's largest economy continues to recover, while the world's second-largest economy looks like it has run into a bit of a soft patch," Mr Matthew Sherwood, head of investment market research at Perpetual in Sydney, told Dow Jones Newswires.

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