Asia: Markets mixed after last week's hefty losses

A man looks at an electronic stock quotation board showing Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo.
A man looks at an electronic stock quotation board showing Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (AFP) - Asian markets were mixed on Monday (March 11) 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 on 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 per cent and Shanghai rallied 0.9 per cent while Tokyo went into the break 0.2 per cent 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."

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 on Saturday that Beijing was upbeat, a day after US President 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 on 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 (European Union) - 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."