Asian stocks follow Wall Street higher after US jobs report

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Gains for Wall Street on Friday after a strong US jobs report spilled over into Asia today, pushing regional stock markets higher.

The S&P 500 gained 0.7 per cent on Friday and closed less than 1 point away from its record high last month as data showed the US economy added 227,000 jobs in January, topping forecasts. However, the unemployment rate ticked 0.1 percentage points higher to 4.8 per cent despite expectations it would remain unchanged.

Although the report was solid, many economists took the view it was unlikely to shift the Federal Reserve from its wait-and-see mode for the near term. The US central bank decided last Wednesday to keep interest rates on hold, having raised them for the first time in a year in December.

Japan’s broad Topix gained 0.4 per cent as the weaker yen gave exporters a lift. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.1 per cent, as heavyweight banking stocks pared early gains.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.4 per cent. Sands China was the benchmark’s worst performing stock after the South China Morning Post said at the weekend the casino operator’s chief executive had resigned after four months in the role.

China’s Shanghai Composite and the technology-focused Shenzhen Composite each gained 0.1 per cent.

A relatively subdued day for the US dollar was generally keeping Asian currencies in check. The Japanese yen was 0.2 per cent stronger at ¥‎112.37 per dollar. At the other end of the performance spectrum, the Australian dollar was 0.2 per cent weaker at $0.7664 after data showed a surprise contraction in retail spending in December.

The US dollar index was 0.2 per cent weaker at 99.708 and facing its first decline in four sessions.

Gold was 0.3 per cent firmer at $1,224.11 an ounce, helped by the weaker greenback. Oil prices were firmer with Brent crude, the international benchmark, up 0.1 per cent at $56.89 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate 0.1 per cent higher at $53.89.

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