BANGKOK: Asian stock markets were mostly lower Thursday after disappointing jobs figures from the U.S. and Europe dimmed confidence in an economic recovery.
Investor nerves was tested by a report that showed U.S. businesses adding far fewer jobs in April than they did in March. The private survey by payroll processor ADP said U.S. businesses added 119,000 jobs in April, down from 201,000 in March.
The Economic Policy Institute calculates that the United States would have to create 350,000 jobs a month for three years to return to pre-recession employment levels. The U.S. government releases its monthly figures, which include the public sector, on Friday. The government and ADP reports can vary sharply.
Dickie Wong of Kingston Securities Ltd. in Hong Kong characterized the losses in Asian markets as "just a pullback." He suggested traders might be overreacting to the latest employment data since the unemployment rate has fallen from 9.1 percent in August to 8.2 percent in March — the lowest level since January 2009.
"Overall, generally speaking, the employment market has actually been improving over the past few months," Wong said.
Meanwhile, another jobs report from Europe underscored the gravity of the continuing debt crisis there. The 17 countries that use the euro reported that unemployment rose to 10.9 percent in March, the highest since the euro launched in 1999.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 percent to 21,225.25, a day after posting strong gains. The Shanghai Composite Index followed suit, slipping 0.2 percent to 2,434.81 after racking up a big advance Wednesday.
South Korea's Kospi lost 0.3 percent to 1,992.42. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 edged down marginally to 4,435 though many traders sat on the sidelines ahead of the release of the national budget next week.
Benchmarks in India, Taiwan and New Zealand also fell. Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand were marginally higher. Markets in Japan were closed for a public holiday.
Among individual stocks, Hong Kong-listed Bank of China tumbled 4 percent and China Construction Bank dropped 3.3 percent after Singapore state investment company Temasek Holdings sold parts of stakes in this banks and raised about $2.5 billion.
U.S. stocks ended mixed Wednesday after the troubling jobs reports. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.1 percent to 13,268.57. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 0.3 percent to 1,402.31. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.3 percent to 3,059.85.
Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 10 cents to $105.12 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 94 cents Wednesday to finish at $105.22 per barrel on the Nymex.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3142 from $1.3165 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar was unchanged at 80.17 yen.