Asian shares mixed after US jobs data release, Hong Kong protests peter

HONG KONG (AFP) - Asian markets were mixed Monday after a strong United States jobs report showed unemployment at a six-year low, while the dollar held on to most of the gains enjoyed at the end of last week.

Hong Kong shares tacked on a second straight day of gains as civil servants returned to work while pro-democracy protests that have shut down parts of the city thinned out.

Tokyo rallied 1.16 per cent, or 182.30 points, to 15,890.95, while in the afternoon Hong Kong jumped 1.27 per cent.

However, Sydney lost 0.48 per cent, or 25.3 points, to end at 5,292.9 while Seoul eased 0.39 per cent, or 7.77 points, to 1,968.39.

Shanghai, Singapore, Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur were closed for public holidays.

The US Labor Department said Friday that the world's biggest economy created 248,000 jobs in September and the jobless rate dipped to a six-year low of 5.9 per cent.

The report - which is welcome news after a weak showing in August - is the latest batch of data indicating the economy is on track to recovery.

It also helped take attention from recent concerns about the economies of China and Europe and the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the US.

Wall Street rallied, with the Dow climbing 1.24 per cent, the S&P 500 jumping 1.12 per cent and the Nasdaq up 1.03 per cent.

On currency markets the dollar surged as investors bet the improved jobs situation will put further pressure on the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates sooner than its mid-2015 timetable.

The greenback was at 109.62 yen in afternoon Asian trade against 109.75 yen in New York, but sharply up from 108.98 yen in Tokyo earlier Friday.

The euro was sitting around two-year lows of US$1.2520 against US$1.2514 in US trade, while it bought 137.12 yen compared with 137.33 yen.

In Hong Kong, traders were more upbeat as protests that blocked some of the city's busiest roads last week seemed to be petering out.

The city's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had insisted government offices must reopen on Monday, warning he would "take all necessary actions to restore social order".

Fearing a repeat of scenes a week ago when police fired tear gas and pepper spray, many demonstrators went home, leaving a devoted core.

There were hopes of a breakthrough Sunday when student leader Lester Shum met mid-ranking officials with the aim of setting conditions for a meeting with Leung's deputy Carrie Lam. However, no agreement was announced.

On oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for November delivery was down 18 US cents at US$89.56. On Friday it closed below US$90 for the first time since April 2013. Brent North Sea crude eased 40 US cents to US$91.91, around two-year lows.

Gold was at US$1,193.67 an ounce against US$1,207.74 late Friday.

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