Investors failed to follow Wall Street, which closed last week on record highs despite the job figures indicating that growth remains sluggish. Tokyo fell 1.44 per cent or 208.12 points to close at 14,258.04, Seoul dropped 0.37 per cent or 7.16 points to 1,916.22, and Sydney fell 0.11 per cent or 5.5 points to 5,111.3.
In the afternoon Hong Kong was up 0.17 per cent and Shanghai rose 0.36 per cent.
Markets in the region were digesting Friday’s Labor Department figures, which showed the United States added just 162,000 jobs in July, well below the 175,000 increase expected by analysts.
The unemployment rate fell to 7.4 per cent from 7.6 per cent in June. The data will serve as an indicator of when the Federal Reserve may rein in its bond-buying programme, with sluggish growth suggesting any scaling back of the massive stimulus scheme will be delayed.
Despite the disappointing figures leading to an initial dip, Wall Street saw a late surge to end the week at a record high, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up 0.19 per cent or 30.34 points at 15,658.36. The broad-market S&P 500 ended up 0.16 per cent or 2.80 points at 1,709.67. The release at the weekend of a slightly improved Chinese non-manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) failed to give Asian stocks a boost.
China’s official non-manufacturing PMI for July came in at 54.1, up from 53.9 in the previous month. A reading below 50 indicates contraction, while anything above signals growth.
Banking giant HSBC said today its PMI for the services industry in China stood at 51.3 in July, unchanged from June.
The dollar fetched ¥98.76 in afternoon Asian trade, almost flat from ¥98.89 in New York Friday, but sharply down from around ¥99.50 in Tokyo Friday. The euro bought US$1.3274 and ¥131.11 today against US$1.3279 and ¥131.35 in US trade.
Hiroichi Nishi, general manager of equities at SMBC Nikko Securities, said there was “some caution over stocks having risen too sharply” in previous sessions. Still, “falls are likely to be limited as uncertainty has broadly receded over the global economic outlook in recent weeks”, he added.