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Asia stocks decline in holiday-thinned trade

Japan's NIkkei 225 retraced losses of as much as 1.50% at market open to trade flat, but it may still face a sixth consecutive session of losses.

 
Asia stocks decline in holiday-thinned trade

Asian stocks got off to a rocky start on Monday after mixed US jobs data battered Wall Street but trade was thin as most major regional markets remain closed for the Lunar New Year holidays.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.2% as of 11.03 a.m. in Tokyo. Down Under, the ASX 200 traded down 0.18%, after initially falling as much as 0.70%, weighed by losses in the energy and financials sectors, down 0.94% and 0.68%, respectively.

Japan's NIkkei 225 retraced losses of as much as 1.50% at market open to trade flat, but it may still face a sixth consecutive session of losses. Markets in Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China are closed for the New Year holiday.

Economic data showed, US nonfarm payrolls increased by just 151,000 jobs last month, falling well short of expectations for a rise of 190,000. But the unemployment rate fell to 4.9%, the lowest since February 2008, and wages rose, indicating some signs of underlying strength in the labour market despite the weak headline figure.

In China, data released over the weekend showed foreign reserves fell for a third straight month in January, as the central bank dumped dollars to defend the yuan and prevent an increase in capital outflows.

Major exporters in Japan traded mixed, with shares of Toyota falling 2.54%, Sony down 1.97% and Sharp erasing losses of as much as 2.27% to trade up 0.57%. The dollar-yen pair, which was at 116.94 at market open, gained 0.25 percent to 117.18.

Energy plays also traded mixed, with Japan's Inpex erasing early losses to trade up 0.58%, Japan Petroleum down 4.37% and Santos falling 2.80%. Woodside Petroleum traded up 0.46%. Crude oil futures slipped in thin trade, but were underpinned by glimmers of hope for steps by oil producers to address the global supply glut that has led to recent steep selloffs.

In currency markets, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was steady at 97.038, well above a nadir of 96.259 plumbed last Thursday, its lowest since October.

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