Asian markets were mixed on Monday as investors struggled to track a rally on Wall Street that was fuelled by a forecast-busting US jobs report, while there was little inspiration from tepid Chinese trade data.
While observers widely expect Beijing and Washington to hammer out a partial tariffs agreement, trading floors remain nervous places with less than a week until a deadline when the US is due to impose fresh levies on Chinese goods.
Hopes that the US and global economy could be showing signs of picking up were given a boost Friday when the Department of Labor said the US economy created 266,000 net new jobs last month, while it upgraded its readings for the previous two months.
The figure was well up from the 190,000 expected, while the report also showed unemployment at a 50-year low and wages growth improving.
The data “could support the notion [of] a near-term rebound in the US and the global economy”, said AxiTrader’s Stephen Innes.
“Even if you don’t believe that narrative while thinking we are merely in the calm between two storms, it’s challenging to critique this … report in any other light than to describe it as excellent, if not a total blockbuster.”
Eyes are now on the Federal Reserve’s next policy meeting, which ends on Wednesday, with analysts expecting it to hold off cutting interest rates for a fourth time this year.
All three main indexes on Wall Street ended sharply higher but Asia was failed to gain traction.
Shanghai finished 0.1 per cent higher and Tokyo ended up 0.3 per cent, while Hong Kong was barely moved.
Mumbai, Sydney and Seoul each added 0.3 per cent, Taipei climbed 0.4 per cent and Jakarta gained 0.1 per cent. Wellington, Singapore, Manila and Bangkok all fell. The Cambodia Securities Exchange finished 0.34 per cent lower.
Chinese trade data failed to provide any excitement. Data showed at the weekend that exports fell more than expected as the tariffs spat with the US grinds on, though imports beat forecasts.
Dealers are also keeping abreast of progress in the Sino-US trade talks, with most bets on a deal eventually being struck.
White House economic aide Larry Kudlow told CNBC an agreement “is still close” and that the two sides talk almost daily, while Secretary of Treasury also said the discussions were on track.
However, with still nothing concrete being announced, there are worries that the US will enact a fresh round of tariffs in China on December 15. Beijing has called for the levies to be removed as part of any deal and the fear is that a new batch of measures could derail the talks.
Oil prices retreated after Friday’s healthy gains that came in reaction to news that the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major producers led by Russia had agreed to cut output by a further 500,000 barrels per day in addition to their current agreement.
Adding to buying was a decision by kingpin Saudi Arabia and other key countries to make additional reductions.
On currency markets the pound was holding gains just days ahead of the UK general election, which is expected to see Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives win a big enough majority to push through his Brexit deal.
In early trade London and Paris each dipped 0.1 per cent, while Frankfurt was flat.