Asia Ends Lower after Lackluster US Jobs Data

Asian stocks mostly traded to the downside on Monday, after a lackluster U.S. job report drove Wall Street lower Friday, but trading volume was light with Japan markets closed for a public holiday.

The FTSE CNBC Asia 100 Index was little changed.

Seoul shares ended lower on Monday as banks and technology issues including KB Financial Group and Hynix Semiconductor weighed, as the U.S. employment data dented investor sentiment.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) finished down 0.26 percent at 2,080.81 points.

Falls in banks weighed, with KB Financial Group down 2 percent and Shinhan Financial Group off 2.5 percent.

Auto issues outperformed, with Kia Motors advancing 2.4 percent.

Losses in key technology issues weighed. Samsung Electronics continued to fall on its disappointing fourth-quarter earnings guidance. The world's No.1 memory chip maker shed 0.4 percent and Hynix Semiconductor fell 3.1 percent.

Shipbuilders sank as continued losses in the Baltic Dry Index, which tracks the cost of shipping key commodities, prompted investors to lock in gains.

Hyundai Heavy Industries fell 1.7 percent and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering lost 2.9 percent.

Australia Recovers as Retail Sales, China Imports Please

Australian shares rose 0.2 percent on Monday, reversing early weakness as retailers rallied on a modest rebound in monthly retail sales, and investor confidence was boosted bybetter-than-expected Chinese importsin December.

Chinese imports of Australian goods grew a brisk 42 percent in December while China recorded a deficit with Australia of $3.8 billion, the biggest shortfall of 2010.

A broad range of stocks managed to end higher, including Newcrest Mining, Qantas Airways and energy firms Santos and Woodside Petroleum.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index advanced 7.3 points to 4,712.3. It fell 0.4 percent on Friday.

Retailers rose after November retail sales data showed a 0.3 percent riseafter a revised 0.8 percent drop in October. Department store Myer gained 3.3 percent to A$3.49 while rival David Jones rose 2.7 percent to A$4.62, a
three-week high close. JB Hi-Fi gained 2.7 percent to A$18.07, its highest in almost a month.

Bank stocks mostly finished higher, led by National Australia Bank with a 0.4 percent gain, although Australia and New Zealand Banking Group said after the close of trade that earnings growth in financial year 2011 could be cut by 1.2 percent if the Australian dollar were to remain at current levels.

HK Falls on Property Talk; Shanghai Slips

Hong Kong stocks closed down 0.67 percent on Monday as property issues such as China Resources Land fell on reports that China may soon impose a tax on second home purchasesin two major cities.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index closed 159.37 points lower at 23,527.26. The China Enterprises Index of top locally listed mainland stocks fell 0.92 percent to 12,806.59.

The southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing is set to become the country's first to introduce a long-debated property tax as part of the government's effort to combat sky-high real estate prices, local media reported on Monday. China-focused Hang Lung Properties fell 2.3 percent to a 2011 low of HK$36.25, while New World Development fell 2.1 percent.

China's key stock index fell 1.7 percent, dragged lower by declines in small-cap shares, such as Wuhan Humanwell Hi-tech Industry.

The benchmark ShanghaiComposite Index fell to 2,791.80 points, continuing a mild technical correction on Friday. But it still managed to gain 1.1 percent last week, supported by ample liquidity.

Wuhan Humanwell Hi-tech Industry was the biggest loser in the Shanghai market, falling 9.2 percent after Shang Fulin, head of China Securities Regulatory Commission, said that China might wash out poor second board stocks. The small and second board indexes fell.

An index of small-cap companies fell over 1 percent, underperforming the broader market's decline. Nantong Jinghua Pharmaceutical fell 6.3 percent, while Shandong Dong-E E-Jiao was down 4.3 percent.

Property stocks shrugged off reports that Chongqing would set a high-end property tax, as analyst said the levy was likely to be too small to affect the entire market. China Vanke, the most active stock in the Shenzhen market, rose 1.7 percent, while Gemdale, the third most active stock in the Shanghai market, was up 2 percent.

Hainan Rubber, the biggest gainer in the Shanghai market, jumped by its 10 percent daily limit after a strong debut on Friday.

Southeast Asia Skids; Indonesia Drops

Southeast Asian stocks declined led by a sharp drop in Indonesia, Asia's top performing major equity market in 2010.

Indonesia's stock index ended down 4.2 percent as foreign investors continued dumping shares of banks on concerns that the country's central bank was behind the curve on inflation and would probably have to catch up.

Singapore shares edged lower on Monday as a regional selloff in shares pushed down banking shares such as Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation and United Overseas Bank.

The Straits Times Index closed down 1 percent, while the KL Composite slipped 0.6 percent.

Japan markets were closed for 'Coming-Of-Age' day.