Asian markets mostly rise after forecast-busting US jobs data

Hong Kong (AFP) –


Equities mostly rose in Asia on Monday following a forecast-busting US jobs report and as investors kept tabs on the progress of Joe Biden's latest economy-boosting spending package.

With holidays keeping business limited, trading was light, but the strong employment reading on Friday provided healthy support, while eyes turn to the upcoming earnings season.

The US Labor Department said the world's top economy created more than 900,000 jobs in March, far more than expected and reinforcing the view that it is well on the recovery track after last year's virus-induced collapse.

"We can expect one million-plus prints if the US vaccination efforts stay on track," said OANDA's Jeffrey Halley.

Meanwhile, upward revisions to figures in January and February meant 156,000 more jobs than previously flagged were created.

Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore and Manila were all in positive territory, though Jakarta and Bangkok fell.

And Mumbai sank more than two percent as India continues to struggle with surging virus infections, which have forced the government to impose limited lockdowns in Maharashtra state.

However, observers said that while they expect markets to continue their upward march this year as vaccination programmes progress and the global economy reopens, they expect the gains to be a little harder.

"We are not doubting the market’s expectations of strong US economic momentum," Eric Robertsen, of Standard Chartered Bank, said. "But the market has also priced in much of the good news up front."

Focus now turns to Washington, where lawmakers are preparing to discuss Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan, which he has said will create millions of jobs for struggling Americans.

Talks on the package come as the White House's recently passed $1.9 trillion stimulus begins to filter through, with $1,400 cash handouts being delivered.

And the chances of the latest spending spurge getting through Congress were given a boost at the weekend after a top Senate Republican said the president could get an "easy bipartisan win" if he concentrated on physical improvements such as rebuilding roads, bridges and airports.

While many in the party oppose the planned tax hikes pencilled in to pay for the scheme, Roy Blunt, the chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, called on Democrats to focus on the traditional pillars of infrastructure.

Axi strategist Stephen Innes said: "The infrastructure package could have an enormous impact on a veritable smorgasbord of areas in the real economy, including traditional infrastructure, construction, repairs of roads, bridges, transport infrastructure and utility lines.

"There is still potentially a long catalyst runway courtesy of the reopening and vaccine narrative. Not to mention the arrival of those stimulus cheques should feed directly into corporate profits, which is not necessarily reflected in earnings yet."

- Key figures around 0610 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.8 percent at 30,089.25 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: Closed for a holiday

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: Closed for a holiday

Dollar/yen: UP at 110.67 yen from 110.50 yen Friday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1750 from $1.1773

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3818 from $1.3840

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.03 pence from 85.07 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.1 percent at $60.77 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.2 percent at $64.10 per barrel

New York - Dow: Closed for a holiday

London - FTSE 100: Closed for a holiday