×

Asia markets mixed, with Japan stocks falling as dollar weakens, pushing up yen

Asian markets closed mixed Monday, with Japan shares losing ground, as a disappointing May jobs report in the U.S. on Friday weakened the dollar and bolstered regional currencies, including the yen.

The Nikkei 225 closed down 62.20 points, or 0.37 percent, at 16,580.03, retracing some of its early losses of as much as 1.81 percent and the yen walked back some of its initial surge.

In Australia, the ASX 200 ended up 41.51 points, or 0.78 percent, at 5,360.40, led by a 3.8 percent advance in the materials sub-index and an 11.85 percent gain in the gold sub-index.

Chinese mainland markets ended mixed, with the Shanghai composite down 4.39 points, or 0.15 percent, at 2,934.28, while the Shenzhen composite closed up 5.31 points, or 0.27 percent, at 1,920.12. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was up 0.14 percent as of 3:12 p.m. HK/SIN.

The South Korean stock market is closed for memorial day.

Australian resources producers received a sharp boost on Monday on the back of the weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs data.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
---
HSI
---
ASX 200
---
SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
---
CNBC 100
---

U.S. nonfarm payroll showed the country created 38,000 jobs in May, falling well below the 162,000 expected, casting doubt on the economic recovery, and introducing uncertainty over when the Federal Reserve might hike interest rates. That weakened the greenback, which in turn bolstered metals prices, which are mostly denominated in dollars.

"Metals prices bounced on Friday, led by silver, gold and copper, as the downbeat U.S. payrolls report quashed expectations of a summer rate hike by the Fed and dragged the dollar lower again," analysts at Capital Economics said in a Friday note.

Major Australian miners rose sharply, with shares of Rio Tinto closing up 3.86 percent, Fortescue advancing 4.22 percent and BHP Billiton higher by 3.72 percent. Gold miners soared, with Newcrest up 11.64 percent, Evolution Mining gaining 13.43 percent and Alacer Gold advancing 5.90 percent.

Spot gold traded down 0.3 percent at $1,240.40 an ounce, rising from levels around $1,210 late last week.

The disappointing jobs report saw the dollar decline Friday against most major currencies. The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, traded at 94.216 as of 2:15 p.m. HK/SIN on Monday, compared with levels around 95.600 before the data.

victoria-water-lily-1.jpg
John S Lander | LightRocket | Getty Images

The dollar also weakened against the Japanese yen, with the dollar-yen pair trading as low 106.35 on Monday during Asian hours, compared with levels ranging from around 108-111 last week before the release of the U.S. jobs numbers.

As of 2:15 p.m. HK/SIN time on Monday, the dollar/yen erased some losses to trade at 106.95.

But the slight advance in the dollar/yen pair during the session did not fully ease the pressure on Japanese export stocks. Major exporters mostly finished lower, with Toyota shares falling 0.14 percent, Nissan down 1.25 percent and Honda off by 1.87 percent. But Sony shares erased early losses, ending up 0.42 percent.

A stronger yen is a negative for exporters as it reduces their overseas profits when converted into local currency. On Wednesday Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a delay in the country's planned sales tax hike and detailed a new stimulus package to revive the Japanese economy. That move also had spurred the yen higher.

Helping to bolster the Nikkei index, shares of Softbank, which has an around 4 percent weighting in the benchmark index, ended up 1.21 percent after the Japanese internet and telecom giant said it will sell most of its stake in GungHo Online Entertainment in a deal valued at 73 billion yen.

That follows Softbank's announcement last month that it would sell at least $7.9 billion worth of its stake in Chinese internet giant Alibaba to raise capital.

The Australian dollar advanced on Friday, moving from as little as $0.7214 before the jobs report on Friday to levels as high as $0.7391 on Monday before retreating to around $0.7330 as of 2:28 p.m. HK/SIN.

Also providing some support to the Aussie, on Tuesday, data showed Australia's first quarter gross domestic product grew 1.1 percent in the three months to March. Analysts suggested the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) would likely leave monetary policy unchanged at its next meeting. In its May meeting, the RBA lowered the cash rate by 25 basis points to a record low 1.75 percent.

"However, the minutes from the last RBA meeting indicated that the decision was a close one, so the tone of the RBA statement could be slightly less dovish," said Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, in a Friday note.

In company news, Noble shares dropped 9.62 percent, after tumbling over 13 percent earlier, extending Friday's more than 13 percent drop after the commodities trader said on Friday it was raising $500 million in a fully underwritten rights issue and that its chairman, Richard Elman, will step down within 12 months,

On Monday, Singapore's OCBC Investment Research said it was ceasing coverage of the stock. In a note, analysts said, "As the company will continue to prune and restructure its business to improve its liquidity profile, we believe it may take a while for the dust to settle, and until then, we may have limited clarity."

Oil prices advanced during Asian hours, with global benchmark Brent up 0.79 percent at $50.03 a barrel as of 2:30 p.m. HK/SIN, while U.S. crude added 0.86 percent to $49.04.

Energy plays in the region were mixed, with Santos shares closing up 0.68 percent, Woodside Petroleum up 0.71 percent and Japan's Inpex dropping 2.42 percent.

Stateside, major indexes closed lower Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 0.18 percent, the S&P 500 lower by 0.29 percent and the Nasdaq composite off by 0.58 percent.