Asian stocks fall after weak US jobs figures

June 6, 2011 - 3:42 AM
Wall Street

Mario Picone, right, talks with fellow specialist Evan Solomon, left, as trader Edward Schreier works on his handheld device, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Friday, June 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets fell in holiday-thinned trade Monday after a slowdown in U.S. hiring added to evidence that the recovery in the world's biggest economy is weakening.

Oil prices hovered above $100 a barrel while the dollar was down against the euro but higher against the yen. Markets in Hong Kong, South Korea and mainland China were among those closed for holidays.

While pessimism has been on the rise amid data pointing toward an easing of the U.S. economic recovery, analysts said a slowdown was not altogether unexpected, as measures taken by various governments to cope with the 2008 financial crisis were winding down.

The U.S. Federal Reserve's rescue plan — a $600 billion bond-buying effort to spur spending and growth — ends this month. China, which embarked on massive government stimulus spending to help counter the impact of plunging exports, applied the brakes after that spending began spurring inflation.

"We got massive pump-priming by governments everywhere," said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB-GK Research in Singapore. "Many of these measures are beginning to fade away, and as a result, we are beginning to see growth normalizing."

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was down 1.4 percent to 9,363.88, with shares of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Japanese utility battling to bring a crippled nuclear power plant under control, plunging 26 percent.

The tumble comes a day after TEPCO acknowledged that 1,500 more tons of radioactive water were being moved into temporary storage at its Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in an attempt to prevent a massive spill of contaminated water into the environment.

More than 100,000 tons of radioactive water have pooled beneath the plant in northeastern Japan since it was hobbled by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

Meanwhile, gaming giants Sony Corp. and Nintendo Corp. lost ground as they scrambled to recover from attacks by unidentified hackers. Sony dropped 3 percent and Nintendo was down 0.9 percent.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index lost 0.6 percent to 4,558.30, with industrial and mining shares broadly lower. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's largest mining company, and rival Rio Tinto Ltd. were down 0.9 percent, while Energy Resources of Australia Ltd. lost 1.3 percent.

On Wall Street on Friday, a weak employment report spurred another stock sell-off, two days after the Dow Jones industrial average had its worst drop in nearly a year.

The Dow lost 0.8 percent to close at 12,151.26. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1 percent to 1,300.16. The Nasdaq composite fell 1.5 percent to 2,732.78.

Employers added only 54,000 new workers in May, the fewest in eight months and well below what analysts were expecting, the Labor Department reported. Private companies hired the fewest new workers in nearly a year. The unemployment rate inched up to 9.1 percent from 9 percent.

The Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report reinforced earlier signals that the U.S. economy is slowing. High gas and food prices have cut into consumer spending and the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan have hurt U.S. manufacturers by slowing down supplies of industrial parts.

Benchmark oil for July delivery was down 13 cents to $100.09 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 18 cents to settle at $100.22 on Friday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.4633 after hitting a one-month high of $1.4624 late Friday in New York. The dollar rose to 80.32 yen from 80.26 yen, the lowest level since mid-May.