Asian shares off to slow start, gold hits month high

Sun Jan 12, 2014 6:28pm EST
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By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian share and bond markets were in a cautious mood on Monday in the wake of surprisingly weak U.S. jobs numbers that revived speculation the Federal Reserve could keep policy loose for longer.

Friday's soft report pulled down bond yields and the dollar, while lifting prices for gold and many commodities. It was also seen as beneficial for some emerging market countries that had been pressured by funds flocking to western assets.

But Wall Street had a more muted reaction to the data, with the Dow .DJI off 0.05 percent, while the S&P 500 .SPX gained 0.23 percent.

Activity in Asia early on Monday was stunted by a holiday in Japan and Australian stocks were little changed .AXJO. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was 0.07 percent higher.

The dollar was pinned at 104.06 yen, having shed a full yen on Friday to end at 104.08 in New York. The euro was steady at $1.3668, compared to $1.3590 before the job figures hit dealing screens on Friday.

Payrolls rose just 74,000 in December, the smallest increase in nearly three years and far below the 196,000 forecast.

The jobless rate fell sharply to 6.7 percent though largely because of a fall in the participation rate as people dropped out of the labor force.

Still, the unemployment rate is now very close to the 6.5 percent threshold the Fed had nominated as a level where it might start considering raising interest rates.   Continued...

A man walks against strong wind and rain in front of a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo October 2, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai