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 February 7, 2016 - 12:40 PM EST
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Asian Markets Pare Initial Losses

CANBERA (dpa-AFX) - Most of the Asian stock markets are closed on Monday for the Lunar New Year holiday. Among the few markets that are open, the Australian and Japanese markets have pared their initial losses.

Both the markets opened lower following the negative lead from Wall Street on disappointing

employment data for the month of January as well as the tumble in crude oil prices.

The Labor Department report showed disappointing job growth in January, as non-farm payroll employment climbed by 151,000 jobs, compared to estimates for an increase of 188,000 jobs.

However, the unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent in January from 5.0 percent in December, pulling the jobless rate to its lowest level since February 2008. Analysts also noted a 0.5 percent increase in average hourly earnings, which led to concerns about the outlook for

interest rates.

The Australian stock market is lower, with financial and oil stocks among the major losers.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 Index is losing 20.5 points or 0.41 percent to 4,955.70, off a low of 4,925.80 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 20.20 points or 0.40 percent to 5,005.40.

In the banking space, Westpac Banking, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank are lower in a range of 0.7 percent to 1.5 percent. The major banks are set to announce their earnings results from this week.

ANZ Banking has refused to comment on speculation it will face legal action from an investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission into alleged interest rate rigging by

big four banks. Shares of the bank are lower by 2 percent.

Among oil stocks, Oil Search is declining almost 2 percent, Santos is down almost 3 percent and Woodside Petroleum is lower by 0.3 percent.

In the mining sector, BHP Billiton is adding 0.2 percent and Rio Tinto is rising 0.7 percent, while Fortescue Metals is down more than 3 percent.

Meanwhile, gold miner Newcrest Mining is rising almost 3 percent and Evolution Mining is gaining almost 5 percent.

A consortium led by Qube Holdings has raised its offer for rail and ports operator Asciano, which declared the offer as superior to a rival offer from Canadian infrastructure giant Brookfield. Shares of Asciano are gaining more than 2 percent, while Qube Holdings shares are down 0.5 percent.

JB Hi-Fi reported a 7.6 percent increase in profit for the first half of the year on strong performance in the months of November and December. However, shares of the home and electronic goods retailer are lower by more than 1 percent.

Gloves maker Ansell reported a 21 percent decline in profit for the first half of the year, but its shares are up more than 3 percent.

In economic news, the latest report from ANZ Bank revealed that the total number of job ads in

was up 1.0 percent on month in January. That follows the 0.1 percent decline in December.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the

dollar on Monday. In early trades, the local unit was trading at $0.7080, down from Friday's close of $0.7182.

The Japanese market is marginally lower, paring most of its initial losses after the

dollar rose slightly. The negative lead from Wall Street following weaker than expected
jobs data and the tumble in crude oil prices weighed on investor sentiment.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is declining 32.38 points or 0.19 percent to 16,787.211, off a low of 16,552.30 earlier.

Among the major exporters, Sony is down more than 2 percent, Panasonic is losing 0.3 percent and Hitachi is declining more than 3 percent. Also, Casio Computer is lower by 0.5 percent and Canon is down 0.4 percent, while Toshiba is adding 0.5 percent.

In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is lower by almost 2 percent and Resona Holdings is edging down 0.09 percent.

Oil stock Inpex is rising 0.2 percent, while JX Holdings is losing more than 3 percent.

Among the other major gainers, DeNA Co is rising more than 8 percent, Tokyo Seikan Group is advancing almost 5 percent and Unitika is up 4 percent. Meanwhile, Dowa Holdings is falling almost 17 percent, Asahi Glass is declining 13 percent and Sumitomo Metal Mining is down more than 7 percent.

On the economic front, the Ministry of Finance said that

had a current account surplus of 960.7 billion yen in December, up 325.2 percent on year. The headline figure was shy of expectations for 1,051.7 billion yen and down from 1,143.5 billion in November.

The trade balance showed a surplus of 188.7 billion yen - beneath forecast for 305.3 billion but up from the 271.5 billion deficit in the previous month.

Exports were down 11.8 percent on year to 6.247 trillion yen after dipping 6.3 percent in November to 5.923 trillion yen. Imports skidded an annual 18.9 percent to 6.059 trillion yen after tumbling an annual 10.9 percent to 6.194 trillion yen in the previous month.

The Bank of Japan said that the total value of overall bank lending in

was up 2.3 percent on year in January, coming in at 498.470 billion yen. That follows the 2.2 percent increase in December.

In the currency market, the

dollar traded in the upper 116 yen-level on Monday, up slightly from Friday's close.

Most of the regional markets are closed on Monday for the Lunar New Year holiday, including

Hong Kong
South Korea
the Philippines
. In addition, the
New Zealand
market is closed in observance of Waitangi Day.

On Wall Street, stocks fell sharply on Friday following the release of a Labor Department report showing disappointing job growth in January, but also a drop in the unemployment rate to a nearly eight-year low.

While the Nasdaq plummeted 146.42 points or 3.3 percent to 4,363.14, the Dow tumbled 211.75 points or 1.3 percent to 16,204.83 and the S&P 500 dove 35.43 points or 1.9 percent to 1,880.02.

The major European markets all moved to the downside on Friday. While the German DAX Index tumbled by 1.1 percent, the

FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.9 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices tumbled Friday, extending weekly losses amid dwindling hopes for an OPEC production cut. WTI oil for March settled at $30.89 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 2.6 percent or $0.80.

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Source: News (February 7, 2016 - 12:40 PM EST)

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