By Daniel Inman
Asian stocks jumped higher on Monday after strong economic data from the world’s two largest economies helped sentiment, while a profit warning from QBE Insurance Group in Sydney weighed on Australian stocks.
The U.S. economy added 203,000 jobs in November, according to data released by the Labor Department late on Friday, while unemployment fell to 7%, a five-year low. Both figures beat expectations and were interpreted positively by Wall Street as a sign of strength in the world’s largest economy.
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The main data point in Asia came from China over the weekend, as the country posted its largest trade surplus in nearly five years. Exports rose by a hefty 12.7% from a year earlier, while imports rose 5.3%.
The trade data were a positive sign for both China and the global economy, and it was followed early Monday by inflation data. The country’s consumer-price index rose by 3% from a year earlier in November, in line with expectations for a 3.1% increase.
The pieces of data helped market sentiment, which could be seen in a weaker yen /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.4906% . The dollar pushed 0.5% higher to ¥102.89 against its Japanese counterpart on Friday and rose slightly on Monday — it was last at ¥103.13.
The dollar trading above the ¥103 mark gave a boost to Japanese stocks, as the Nikkei Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.39% jumped 1.9%. The weaker currency helped exporters, as Toyota Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 +1.10% /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -0.05% rose 1.3%, and Kyocera Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204880749/delayed JP:6971 -0.27% /zigman2/quotes/205094593/delayed KYOCF +0.75% added 2.5%. Industrial robotic firm Fanuc Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202054799/delayed JP:6954 -1.42% /zigman2/quotes/206262686/delayed FANUF -2.94% rose 2.5% after Credit Suisse raised the firm’s target price.
“The correction stage of the U.S. shares prior to the employment data release is over, and there is a greater optimism in the market buoyed by the reaction to the strong employment figures,” said Mitsushige Akino, fund manager at Ichiyoshi Asset Management.
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Indian stocks hit an all-time high on Monday. The Sensex /zigman2/quotes/210597966/delayed IN:1 -0.37% was up 1.6% late in Asia, after results from the country's recent state elections showed that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party had claimed four critical victories. The results were a positive for the business-friendly party's chances in the May 2014 elections, which helped the Indian rupee hit a four-month high against the dollar. The dollar /zigman2/quotes/210562010/realtime/sampled USDINR 0.0000% was last trading at 61.07 rupees.
Elsewhere in the region, South Korea's Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -1.49% gained 1%, Taiwan's Taiex rose 0.9% and Indonesia's JSX /zigman2/quotes/210597981/delayed ID:JAKIDX -1.01% was up 0.9%.
Australia failed to take part in the regional rally, as the S&P ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -0.33% turned a modest early gain into a loss after the local mood was hurt by a profit warning from QBE Insurance Group /zigman2/quotes/207050271/delayed AU:QBE +0.13% /zigman2/quotes/201857553/delayed QBEIF +0.65% . The index fell 0.8%.
The Sydney-based insurer predicted a sharp swing to a full-year loss due to higher claims provisions in North American, forecasting a $250 million net loss for the year. As a result, the company’s stock plunged 22.3%, accounting for around one half of the fall on the index.
Yumi Otagaki contributed to this article.