Asian shares mixed as US job data adds to case for Fed hikes

HONG KONG: Asian stock indexes were mixed Monday while the dollar rebounded after a US job report showed strong wage gains, giving more ammunition to US policymakers planning further rate rises.

Keeping Score: Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng index was practically unchanged at 22,507.32 while the Shanghai Composite in mainland China rose 0.5 percent to 3,169.15. South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.1 percent to 2,048.30 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 jumped 1.1 percent to 5,817.30. Trading in Japan was closed for a holiday. Benchmarks in Southeast Asia were mixed.

US Jobs: Friday's Labor Department report painted a mixed picture of US employment. It showed that companies added a solid but slightly disappointing 156,000 jobs in December. On the other hand, hourly pay jumped 2.9 percent from the year before, which was the biggest monthly increase in seven years. For 2016 overall, job growth in the world's biggest economy remained steady in 2016, although the pace was slower than in 2015.

Anayst View: "US markets have closed off the first week of the year with a steady set of gains across sectors and the same can be seen in most Asian markets," said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore. "With improving indicators in the US and across Asia, we could see a second set of gains this week in this data-filled week."

China Outflows: Official data showed that China's foreign exchange reserves contracted in December for the sixth straight month, falling by $41 billion to just over $3 trillion, according to the People's Bank of China. The central bank said Saturday its effort to stabilize the yuan was a major reason for the drop in forex reserves. The latest figures underline Beijing's willingness to use its huge stockpile of foreign currency to stabilize the yuan, which has been declining as residents and companies send more money overseas amid flagging confidence in China's economy.

Wall Street: Most major US benchmarks crept higher, finishing the week with a big gain as investors remained optimistic about the US economy. The Dow Jones industrial average flirted with the 20,000-level but finished up 0.3 percent at 19,963.80. The S&P 500 rose 0.4 percent to 2,276.98. The Nasdaq composite jumped 0.6 percent to 5,521.06. The small-cap Russell 2000 index slid 0.3 percent to 1,367.28.

Currencies: The dollar rose to 117.35 yen from 116.93 yen in late trading Friday. The euro was unchanged at $1.0533.

Energy: US benchmark crude oil slipped 27 cents to $53.72 a barrel in electronic trading in New York Mercantile Exchange. The contact rose 23 cents to close at $53.99 a barrel on Friday. Brent crude, which is used to price oil sold internationally, added lost 17 cents to $576.93 a barrel in London.