Asia markets mostly up on US jobs news but inflation fears linger

A "Now Hiring" sign in a window. AFP/Olivier Douliery

NEW YORK - A forecast-busting US jobs report and the Senate's approval of Joe Biden's huge stimulus package helped push most Asian equities higher on Monday, while Brent crude broke past $70 for the first time in almost two years after an attack on energy facilities in Saudi Arabia at the weekend.

Traders were given a stellar lead from Wall Street, where all three main indexes surged following news that the world's top economy created 379,000 jobs in February, reaffirming the view that it is on track for a strong recovery helped by the rollout of vaccines and easing of lockdowns.

The report came just ahead of senators passing Biden's $1.9-trillion rescue plan, setting it up to be signed off by the president by the end of the week.

However, the news added to fears about soaring inflation that could force the Federal Reserve to wind back the ultra-loose monetary policies that have been a key driver of a year-long equity market rally.

"The US federal government and the Federal Reserve seemed to have learnt something from their attempts to reheat the economy after the great financial crisis," said David Kelly, at JP Morgan Asset Management.

"The economy is already surprisingly warm and, with the help of very aggressive policy, is likely to heat up quickly from here. However, the critical question remains whether they have the skill and discipline to turn the policy temperature down to a simmer before inflation, and not just the economy, comes to a boil."

Tokyo, Seoul and Jakarta all rose while Sydney, Singapore and Taipei put on more than one percent each. Shanghai was also well up after figures at the weekend showed Chinese exports soared more than expected in January and February.

However, Hong Kong, Wellington and Manila were in the red.


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