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Asian Markets Mostly Lower After Weak U.S. Jobs Data

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Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Monday following the weak cues from Wall Street Friday after a report released by the Labor Department revealed that U.S. job growth nearly ground to a halt in February. The data added to worries about a global economic slowdown.

The Labor Department said non-farm payroll employment edged up by 20,000 jobs in February after jumping by an upwardly revised 311,000 jobs in January. Economists had expected employment to increase by about 180,000 jobs compared to the spike of 304,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

The Australian market is extending losses from the previous session following the weak cues from Wall Street. In addition, the fall in crude oil prices dragged oil stocks lower.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 23.10 points or 0.37 percent to 6,180.70 after touching a low of 6,177.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is declining 21.60 points or 0.34 percent to 6,265.50. Australian stocks fell sharply on Friday.

Oil stocks are weak after crude oil prices declined 1 percent on Friday. Santos, Oil Search and Woodside Petroleum are all declining more than 2 percent each.

The major miners are also weak. Rio Tinto is edging down 0.1 percent, Fortescue Metals is down 0.4 percent and BHP Group is declining almost 1 percent.

In the banking space, National Australia Bank, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ Banking are lower in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent.

Bucking the trend, gold miners are advancing following a surge in gold prices. Newcrest Mining is rising more than 3 percent and Evolution Mining is higher by more than 2 percent.

Newcrest Mining said it will pay $806.5 million to Toronto-listed Imperial Metals Corp. to acquire a 70 percent joint-venture interest in, and operatorship of the Red Chris mine in British Columbia, Canada.

Appen said it is launching a A$300 million capital raising to fund the acquisition of U.S.-based machine learning software firm Figure Eight. Shares of the Sydney-based artificial intelligence firm are in a trading halt.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S dollar on Monday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7042, up from $0.7001 on Friday.

The Japanese market is modestly higher in choppy trading. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 35.55 points or 0.17 percent to 21,061.11, after touching a low of 20,938.00 earlier. Japanese shares extended losses for a fourth straight session on Friday.

The major exporters are mixed on a flat yen. Canon is adding 0.6 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is rising 0.5 percent, while Sony is declining more than 1 percent and Panasonic is down almost 1 percent.

In the tech sector, Advantest is losing 2 percent, while Tokyo Electron is adding 0.5 percent. Among the major automakers, Honda and Toyota are adding almost 1 percent each.

In the banking space, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is up 0.7 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is adding 0.3 percent. In the oil sector, Inpex is lower by more than 1 percent and Japan Petroleum is down 1 percent after crude oil prices declined on Friday.

Among the major gainers, Hitachi is gaining 4 percent.

On the flip side, Chiyoda Corp. is losing more than 6 percent and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha is lower by 4 percent. Taiyo Yuden, Dena Co., Konami Holdings and Alps Alpine are all declining more than 2 percent each.

On the economic front, the Bank of Japan said that the M2 money stock in Japan was up 2.4 percent on year in February, coming in at 1,010.1 trillion yen. That was in line with expectations and up from the downwardly revised 2.3 percent in January. The M3 money stock was up an annual 2.1 percent for the fourth straight month, matching expectations at 1,343.1 trillion yen.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 111 yen-range on Monday.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia, Taiwan and Malaysia are also lower, while Shanghai and Hong Kong are higher.

On Wall Street, stocks rallied going into the close of trading on Friday after seeing initial weakness, but still ended modestly lower. The initial weakness came after a report from the Labor Department revealed job growth nearly ground to a halt in February after soaring in January.

The Dow edged down 22.99 points or 0.1 percent to 25,450.24, the Nasdaq dipped 13.32 points or 0.2 percent to 7,408.14 and the S&P 500 slipped 5.86 points or 0.2 percent to 2,743.07.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on Friday. While the German DAX Index fell by 0.5 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both slid by 0.7 percent.

Crude oil futures ended lower on Friday as worries about demand growth resurfaced on data showing a weak jobs growth in the U.S. in the month of February and a sharp plunge in Chinese exports. WTI crude for April delivery fell $0.59 or 1 percent to $56.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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