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Asian Markets In Negative Territory

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Asian stock markets are in negative territory on Monday, with some of the markets down with sharp losses after the sell-off on Wall Street Friday as rising bond yields and the prospects of higher interest rates worried investors.

The closely watched U.S. jobs report for January showing stronger than expected job growth and a jump in wages bolstered expectations the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in March.

The Australian market is notably lower following the weak cues from Wall Street as rising bond yields and the prospects of higher interest rates dampened investor sentiment. In addition, weak commodity prices dragged resources stocks lower.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 75.50 points or 1.23 percent to 6045.90, off a low of 6,031.00 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 79.30 points or 1.27 percent to 6,150.50.

The major miners are higher following a dip in iron ore prices. Fortescue Metals is declining almost 1 percent, Rio Tinto is lower by almost 2 percent and BHP Billiton is losing more than 2 percent.

Among gold miners, Newcrest Mining is down more than 1 percent and Evolution Mining is falling more than 3 percent after gold prices also fell.

In the oil sector, Santos is lower by more than 3 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search are declining more than 2 percent each after crude oil prices slipped on Friday.

AWE Ltd. said its board has decided that a takeover offer of 95 cents per share from Japanese firm Mitsui & Co. is the best option among proposals from three suitors vying for control of the company. The oil and gas producer's shares are down more than 3 percent.

The big four banks - ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank - are losing a range of 0.8 percent to 1.2 percent.

Westpac said it has recorded another A$8.63 billion of mortgages switching from interest-only to principal and interest in the first quarter.

Downer EDI has projected a goodwill impairment charge of A$77 million on its mining operations in the first half of the year after failing to renew two material contracts and due to delays in securing alternative business. Shares of the heavy engineering company are lower by more than 3 percent.

Wesfarmers announced executive changes at Bunnings UK, its underperforming UK hardware business that was responsible for the majority of its A$1.3 billion in first-half writedowns and impairments. The company's shares are falling more than 4 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will see January numbers for the Performance of Service Index from AiG, plus the inflation forecast for January from TD Securities today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is weaker against the U.S. dollar, which was rebounded on better-than-expected U.S. jobs data. The local unit was quoted at US$0.7901, down from US$0.8001 on Friday.

The Japanese market is sharply lower, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index falling below the 23,000 mark, as rising bond yields and the prospects for higher interest rates following the release of better-than-expected U.S. jobs data dented investor sentiment.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is losing 569.59 points or 2.45 percent to 22,704.94, off a low of 22,697.53 earlier.

The major exporters are mostly lower despite a weaker yen. Mitsubishi Electric is declining more than 4 percent, Canon is losing almost 3 percent and Panasonic is down more than 2 percent, while Sony is adding more than 2 percent. SoftBank Group's shares are lower by more than 2 percent.

Among automakers, Toyota is declining more than 1 percent, while Honda is advancing more than 2 percent. In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is losing almost 3 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is lower by more than 5 percent.

In the oil space, Inpex is lower by more than 4 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration is falling more than 5 percent as crude oil prices slipped on Friday.

Among the market's best performers, Ube Industries is rising almost 3 percent, Ricoh is adding more than 2 percent and Fujifilm is advancing almost 1 percent.

On the flip side, Fujikura is falling 16 percent, while Tokai Carbon and Nippon Sheet Glass are lower by more than 8 percent each. Furukawa Electric is down more than 6 percent.

On the economic front, Japan will see January results for the services and composite PMIs from Nikkei today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 109 yen-range on Monday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan are down more than 2 percent each, while South Korea is declining almost 2 percent. New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia are all lower by more than 1 percent each, Indonesia is down almost 1 percent and Shanghai is declining 0.6 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks closed sharply lower on Friday as traders worries about the prospects of higher interest rates after the Labor Department released a report showing stronger than expected job growth and a jump in wages. A negative reaction to quarterly results from big name tech companies like Google parent Alphabet and Apple also contributed to the sell-off.

The Dow tumbled 665.75 points or 2.5 percent to 25,520.96, the Nasdaq slumped 144.92 points or 2 percent to 7,240.95 and the S&P 500 dove 59.85 points or 2.1 percent to 2,762.13.

The major European markets also showed notable moves to the downside on Friday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index dropped by 0.6 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index tumbled by 1.6 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures also responded negatively to the jobs report on Friday. WTI crude for March delivery dipped $0.35 to $65.45 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTT Staff Writer

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