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Asia stocks mostly up on US jobs but growth, trade fears persist

Reports rekindle concerns about chances of a US-China trade agreement

By AFP - Oct 07,2019 - Last updated at Oct 07,2019

In this photo, taken on May 2, 2018, a view of the Federal Reserve building is seen in Washington, DC. (AFP file photo)

HONG KONG — Most markets rose in Asia on Monday after a mixed US jobs report eased worries about a recession in the world's top economy but maintained expectations the Federal Reserve (Fed) will press ahead with more interest rate cuts.

However, there was some nervousness after reports said China had cut back on the number of areas it is willing to discuss at this week's top-level trade talks with the US, rekindling concerns about the chances of any agreement between the two.

After a string of below-par data last week that highlighted the impact of Donald Trump's trade war on the key manufacturing and services sectors, Friday's much-anticipated non-farm payrolls figures showed unemployment at a 50-year low in September.

But the pace of job creation was the slowest in four months, wages fell and the manufacturing workforce also shrank for the second time this year.

All three main indexes on Wall Street rallied more than one per cent as dealers breathed a sigh of relief that the jobs figures did not miss badly, with most still expecting another Fed rate cut at its next meeting this month.

"As the US unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in 50 years, worries over US recession eased, but at the same time expectations for further rate cuts remain untouched," Hideyuki Ishiguro, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities, said in a commentary.

Most Asian markets followed the lead from New York.

Sydney rose 0.7 per cent and Singapore added 0.6 per cent with Seoul gaining 0.1 per cent, while Wellington jumped 0.8 per cent and Taipei put on 0.4 per cent. Mumbai and Bangkok also rose.

Tokyo closed 0.2 per cent down as the yen strengthened on bets for another Fed cut, while there were also losses in Manila and Jakarta. Hong Kong and Shanghai were closed for a public holiday.

In early trade, London fell 0.3 per cent, Paris lost 0.4 per cent and Frankfurt was off 0.2 per cent.


China's 'calculation' 


Focus turns this week to the resumption of high-level trade talks between China and the United States in Washington.

However, while there has been a broad expectation the two sides are coming together in some areas owing to their economies stuttering, reports said Beijing was looking to narrow the remit of any deal.

Bloomberg News reported that top negotiator Vice Premier Liu He had said he would not put on the table reforms to Chinese industrial policy or government subsidies, a key source of anger within the White House.

The story said Beijing had felt its hand had been strengthened by the beginning of impeachment proceedings against Trump as well as signs of slowing in the US manufacturing sector, which could hurt the president ahead of next year's election.

Chinese officials "are interpreting the impeachment discussion as a weakening of Trump's position, or certainly a distraction", said Jude Blanchette, at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. "Their calculation is that Trump needs a win" and could be open to some compromises, he added.

Stephen Innes, Asia-Pacific market strategist at AxiTrader, said the news came as a surprise to traders.

"With the US economy taking a decisive turn for the worse, China may be borrowing a page out of the Trump trade policy book, which sees China now turning the screws on the US," he noted. 

"However, at this stage, the market is still waiting for clarification, and if China walks down these innuendos."

Unease about the trade talks and long-running concerns about the global economy were keeping oil prices subdued, with both main contracts flat on Monday.

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