Asian Stocks Down After Weak U.S. Jobs, as Trump Trip in Focus

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -
A currency trader walks by the screen showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) at the foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, Monday. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Asian markets slipped on Monday as weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs figures dented sentiment. Investors were also keeping an eye on President Donald Trump’s visit to Asia, where he is expected to discuss North Korean nuclear issues with leaders in the region.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 finished flat at 22,548.35, while South Korea’s KOSPI dropped 0.3 percent to 2,549.41. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dipped 0.2 percent to 28,543.99, but the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.5 percent to 3,388.17. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.1 percent to 6,055.85. Stocks in Southeast Asia were mixed.

“While we have very light U.S. economic diary this week, there will be no lack of political bluster as the U.S. tax reform debate rages while Trump deals with North Korean nuclear ambitions and regional trade relations during his whirlwind tour of Asia,” Stephen Innes, head of trading at OANDA, said in a daily commentary. “But make no mistake the focus is squarely on North Korea headlines.”

On Friday, U.S. employers added fewer-than-expected 261,000 jobs in October, and the unemployment rate dipped to 4.1 percent, its lowest level in nearly 17 years. But wage growth was also weaker than economists forecast. Average hourly earnings were up 2.4 percent from a year earlier, a slowdown from September’s 2.8 percent rate. Analysts said the below-expectations jobs figures did not dent expectations for a Federal Reserve rate hike in December.

U.S. stocks finished higher on Friday driven by technology stocks.  Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 0.3 percent to 2,587.84. The Dow Jones industrial average advanced 0.1 percent to 23,539.19 and the Nasdaq composite climbed 0.7 percent to 6,764.44.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 21 cents to $55.85 per barrel in electronic trading on New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $1.10 to settle at $55.64 per barrel on Friday, its highest settlement price since July 2015. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 38 cents to $62.45 per barrel. On Friday, it rose $1.45 to $62.07 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar strengthened to 114.36 Japanese yen from 114.05 yen while the euro fell to $1.1601 from $1.1609.