Asia shares stumble as weak China trade stokes growth worries

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares wobbled on Monday after dismal Chinese trade data eclipsed a strong U.S. jobs report, raising concerns about a deepening slowdown in the world's second-largest economy and sending the Australian dollar sliding.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.3 per cent with Australian shares down 0.5 per cent in early trade. U.S. stock futures also shed 0.4 per cent.

Japan's Nikkei share average bucked the trend and rose 0.7 per cent on the back of a weaker yen.

Data published on Sunday showed China's trade performance slumped in January, with exports falling 3.3 per cent from year-ago levels while imports tumbled 19.9 per cent, far worse than analysts had expected. The data highlighted deepening weakness in the Chinese economy.

"Given that there were more business days in January this year than last year due to the difference in lunar new year dates, that was pretty dismal data,' said Ayako Sera, market economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.

The Australian dollar, often seen as a proxy on bets on Chinese economy because of the country's trade link to China, fell 0.4 per cent in early trade to $0.7775.

The poor China trade figures took some of the shine off robust U.S. jobs growth, with payroll gains of 257,000 in January. Hourly wages also rebounded, increasing 12 cents last month for a 2.2 percent increase from a year earlier, the largest such gain since August.

U.S. stocks, which initially cheered the solid jobs data, sold off in late trade, with S&P 500 ending down 0.3 per cent after having hitting a five-week high earlier on Friday.

The prospects of an earlier U.S. rate hike could hit Asian shares and currencies even harder, as investors could bring some of their invested money back to the U.S. markets.

The euro remained vulnerable as the new Greek leader Alexis Tsipras rejected the bailout, setting himself on a collision course with his European partners.

In his first major speech to parliament since storming to power last month on Sunday, Tsipras rattled off a list of moves to reverse reforms imposed by European and International Monetary Fund lenders.

The euro traded at US$1.1325, little changed but near last week's low of US$1.1280.

The U.S. dollar's index against a basket of six major currencies maintained its 1.1 per cent gain on Friday and stood at 94.740 , edging closer to an 11-year high of 95.481 hit last month.

The yen hit four-week lows of 119.23 to the dollar on Friday on the back of rising U.S. bond yields. It last stood at 118.96 in early Monday trade.

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