Asian shares retreated for a fourth consecutive session on Monday, as weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs data rekindled investor concerns about the pace of recovery in the world's largest economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the economy added 120,000 jobs in March, the smallest increase since October,
while the unemployment rate dropped to the lowest rate in more than three years, mainly because of a decline in the number of people in the labor force.
A lack of directional cues from Europe and the U.S. and data showing a higher-than-expected reading on China's consumer price inflation also weighed on investor sentiment to some extent.
Industrial commodities such as copper and oil fell on renewed worries over global economic growth, while gold rebounded on speculation that the Federal Reserve could consider additional quantitative easing, with focus on Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech later in the global day. The yen extended its gains against the dollar to hit a one-month high, as investors exercised caution ahead of more U.S. data and earnings due this week.
Japanese shares extended their losing streak for the firth straight day, as the yen's appreciation following disappointing U.S. jobs data weighed on export-linked shares. The Nikkei average fell 1.5 percent to 9,546.26, its lowest level in about one and a half months, while the broader Topix index ended down 1.46 percent at 813.69. Canon dropped 1.7 percent, Toyota Motor lost 2.4 percent and Nikon tumbled 3.4 percent. Nissan Motor shed 3.4 percent, weighed down by a brokerage downgrade.
China-linked companies were also hit after data showed China's annual inflation unexpectedly spiked to 3.6 percent in March. Komatsu lost nearly 2 percent and Hitachi Construction Machinery fell 2.3 percent. Sony bucked the downward trend to end 0.6 percent higher, bolstered by a Nikkei report that the company plans to cut about 6 percent of its workforce worldwide, possibly by the end of this year.
China's Shanghai Composite index ended 0.9 percent lower, recouping some early losses, as investors adopted a cautious approach ahead of a raft of economic data due this week, including trade balance figures, GDP and industrial production data. Meanwhile, inflation in China increased more than expected in March after easing to a twenty-month low in February, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed today. Consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of inflation, rose to 3.6 percent in March from 3.2 percent in February, mainly driven by rising food costs, according to the NBS.
South Korea's Kospi average fell 1.6 percent to a one-month low, as the disappointing non-farm payrolls report out of the U.S. sparked risk aversion ahead of a slew of economic data from China due this week. Builders bore the brunt of the selling, with Hyundai Engineering & Construction and Samsung Engineering falling 4-5 percent.
Hana Financial dropped 1.3 percent and KB Financial lost 2.6 percent as a sharp slowdown in U.S. jobs growth increased uncertainty over the global economic recovery. Defense-related stocks rallied after satellite images showed North Korea is gearing up for its third nuclear test.
India's benchmark Sensex was last trading down 1.1 percent, with banks pacing the declines after deposit growth fell short of Reserve Bank of India's projections for the fiscal year ended in March.
Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was down 0.3 percent, Malaysia's KLSE Composite slid half a percent, Singapore's Straits Times fell 0.9 percent and the Taiwan Weighted average lost 1.4 percent. Markets in Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand were shut for holidays.
by RTT Staff Writer
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