HONG KONG—Asian markets mostly rose Monday as dealers cheered an improvement in the US unemployment rate and another batch of manufacturing figures indicating China’s economy is emerging from a slumber.
Investors appeared unmoved by figures confirming Japan’s economy shrank in the three months to September, as traders keep their sights on Sunday’s general election, which is expected to see Yoshihiko Noda’s government ousted.
Tokyo ended flat, edging up 0.07 percent, or 6.36 points, to 9,533.75, Sydney gained 0.13 percent, or 6.1 points, to close at 4,557.9, while Seoul also closed flat, losing 0.03 points to 1,957.42.
Hong Kong gained 0.39 percent, or 85.55 points, to close at 22,276.72, while Shanghai rose 1.07 percent, or 21.98 points, to 2,083.77 as investors shrugged off a weak set of trade figures on Monday.
Washington on Friday unveiled figures showing the economy added 146,000 jobs in November, up from a revised 138,000 in October. Expectations had been for just 80,000 jobs to be added.
The Labor Department also said the unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent last month, its lowest since December 2008, from 7.9 percent in October.
However, the data were tempered by a University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, which declined to 74.5 from November’s five-year-high of 82.7.
Traders are also nervous about the lack of progress on Capitol Hill in talks aimed at averting the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts due to take effect on January 1 and which would likely tip the economy into recession.
Wall Street was mixed, with the Dow up 0.62 percent and the S&P 500 gaining 0.29 percent but the Nasdaq lost 0.38 percent.
In China the government said Sunday that November had seen a double-digit increase in production at factories, workshops and mines for the first time since March.
Figures on retail sales, fixed asset investment and inflation reinforced the view that the economy is finally on the mend after seven straight quarters of slowdown in growth.
“Overall it’s a quite strong set of numbers, supporting our view of rebounding GDP growth,” said Lu Ting, China economist with Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
However, data released on Monday showed exports rose 2.9 percent in November and imports were flat, while the trade surplus sank to $19.6 billion from October’s $32.0 billion, and well below expectations for $27.8 billion.
The figures indicate that while a rebound looks to be under way at home, the ongoing weakness in Europe and the United States – China’s two key markets – continue to act as a weight on the economy.
HSBC economist Ma Xiaoping said the data confirm that overseas demand remains weak, while the relatively strong performance in October and September was because of strong orders ahead of Christmas.
“Looking ahead, China may have to rely more on investment to stimulate the economy if the US situation worsens,” she told Dow Jones Newswires.
On currency markets the euro bought $1.2909 and 106.40 yen in afternoon Asian trade, down from $1.2928 and 106.64 yen in New York Friday afternoon. The dollar bought 82.40 yen, from 82.46 yen.
The yen is enjoying a slight uptick after coming under pressure in recent weeks ahead of polls on December 16. Noda and his Democratic Party of Japan are expected to be beaten by the Liberal Democratic Party, headed by former prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Abe has promised to push a more aggressive monetary easing policy to jumpstart the economy.
Oil prices were higher, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in January, gaining 48 cents to $86.41 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for January delivery adding 42 cents to $107.44.
Gold was at $1,711.20 at 0950 GMT compared with $1,696.90 late on Friday.
In other markets:
— Taipei fell 0.43 percent, or 32.76 points, to 7,609.50.
TSMC lost 1.63 percent to Tw$96.5 while Hon Hai Precision was 0.63 percent higher at Tw$96.1.
— Manila ended 0.63 percent, or 36.66 points, lower at 5,757.54.
BDO Unibank slumped 2.41 percent to 74.90 pesos while Philippine Long Distance Telehone Co. fell 1.06 percent to 2,620 pesos.
— Wellington eased 0.27 percent, or 10.75 points, to 4,030.77.
Telecom was down 0.88 percent at NZ$2.265, Chorus fell 2.15 percent to NZ$2.73 and The Warehouse was up 0.32 percent at NZ$3.10.
— Singapore closed up 0.23 percent, or 7.23 points, at 3,114.34.
CapitaLand gained 0.81 percent to Sg$3.72 while Singapore Airlines shed 1.39 percent to Sg$10.68.
— Kuala Lumpur rose 0.89 percent, or 14.38 points, to 1632.15.
Axiata Group gained 3.5 percent to 6.19 ringgit while AirAsia lost 2.5 percent to end at 2.69 ringgit.
— Jakarta gained 0.28 percent, or 11.81 points, to 4,302.61.
Tobacco company Gudang garam rose 2.26 percent to 56,550 rupiah, retailer Hero supermarket jumped 3.53 percent to 4,400 rupiah, while Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper dropped 7.79 percent to 710 rupiah.
— Bangkok was closed for a public holiday.