Asian stock markets started the new week mixed, as trading sentiment was tame after last Friday's U.S. nonfarm payrolls report gave a mixed view of the U.S. economy. Global oil prices, which extended their slide on Monday on the back of weakening demand in Europe and Asia, also added to the gloom. Both Brent crude and U.S. crude are at their lowest since April 2009.
Wall Street set the mood, with benchmarks finishing in the red, as the December jobs report topped expectations but hourly earnings declined. Figures from the Labor Department showed the U.S. economy added 252,000 to payrolls last month, after generating an unexpectedly strong 353,000 jobs in November. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, dropped to 5.6 percent.
Meanwhile, Japanese markets are closed for the "Coming of Age Day".
Mainland indices mixed
China's benchmark Shanghai Composite index retreated 1.7 percent to finish at a one-and-a-half-week low on Monday, after reports of upcoming new listings this week. According to state media Xinhua, 22 new share offerings were putting pressure on pricing, with Wednesday along seeing 10 new offerings.
Among the most active stocks, Agricultural Bank of China and Citic Securities tanked 2.1 and 4 percent, respectively. Financials and property majors were weak on Monday, with China Construction Bank closing down 2.3 percent, while China Merchants Property and Poly Real Estate traded more than 3 percent lower
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index bucked the Asia-wide losing trend to inch up 0.5 percent, on the back of more than 10 percent gains in each of Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong shares, which accounted for nearly 5 percent of the local stock index.
The stocks were in focus after Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, announced plans for a restructure that will split Cheung Kong into two listed companies, one focusing on property and the other on telecoms, retail and energy, in a bid to boost their value and attract more investors.
ASX falls 0.8%
Energy producers were downbeat as well, as the continued fall in oil prices ignited "risk-off" mode in the beaten-down oil and gas sector. Santos and Oil Search lost 5.2 and 0.7 percent, respectively. Woodside Petroleum, which was in focus after signing a memorandum of understanding with India's Adani to cooperate on liquefied natural gas market, pulled back nearly 2 percent.
Kospi slips 0.2%
South Korean shares edged down amid declines in index heavyweights. KB Financial closed down 3 percent, while Hyundai Motor plunged nearly 2 percent on news that South Korea's auto exports fell for the second straight year in 2014. Sister firm Kia Motors fell 0.8 percent in choppy trade on late Monday.
Builders were mixed despite home sales transactions last year showed an 18 percent rise on-year; GS Construction led advances by rising 2.4 percent while Samsung C&T and Daewoo Engineering & Construction receded nearly 2 percent each.
Tech shares were the flavor of the day, with LG Electronics and SK Hynix making gains between 1.2 and 0.7 percent. Samsung Electronics - the heaviest weighted stock on the Kospi index - closed up 0.2 percent on Monday.
Meanwhile, the South Korean touched a three-and-a-half-week high of 1,082 against the greenback, as an unexpected fall in U.S. wages prompted investors to cut long positions in the U.S. dollar.
India's Nifty index closed up 0.46 percent ahead of a flurry of economic data: Consumer price inflation for December accelerated to 5 percent, driven by higher food costs while industrial output for November was up 3.8 percent year-on-year.
Among gainers, Indian software services exporter Infosys extended Friday's gains to rise more than 1 percent, after it surprised investors by sticking to its full-year sales target.
Bucking the downtrend in Asia, Vietnam's VN stock index closed up 0.8 percent to a 5-week high while Thailand's SET index advanced 0.1 percent to a one-week high on Monday.