World Economy

Asia Stocks Drift After Weak US Job Data

Asia Stocks Drift After Weak US Job Data
Asia Stocks Drift After Weak US Job Data

Asian stocks drifted Monday, with many markets closed for holidays, after a surprisingly weak US employment report.

Keeping Score: Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped 0.2 percent to 19,397.98 while Seoul’s Kospi rose 0.1 percent to 2,046.43. Singapore’s benchmark was little changed at 3,455.30. Indonesia’s index rose 0.4 percent. Markets were closed in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. European markets were closed for Easter Monday. Futures pointed to weakness on Wall Street. S&P 500 futures were down 0.7 percent to 2,045.60, AP reported.

US Jobs: Employers added just 126,000 new jobs in March, the smallest gain since December 2013. That ended 12 straight months of gains above 200,000. Even so, the unemployment rate remained at 5.5 percent. For markets it was mixed news. It suggests the Federal Reserve won’t raise interest rates midyear but also indicates the economy weakened in the first quarter. Economic growth has been hampered this year by harsh winter weather, slowdowns at factories and lackluster construction activity. The government also cut its previous estimates of job gains in February and January by a combined 69,000.

Energy: Benchmark US crude was up $1.62 at $50.76 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The futures contract last settled on Thursday as Nymex trading was closed for Good Friday. Brent crude was up $1.50 at $56.45 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London.

  Ugly Week Ahead

When the stock market opens Monday, trading could be brutal. The markets were closed for the holiday weekend. The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures all careened down 1 percent.

Experts have been slashing their forecasts for economic growth and corporate earnings in the US.

Reasons to be queasy: The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta started the year predicting 1.9 percent growth for the first quarter. Last week they cut that forecast to zero.

Businesses are also predicting lousy results. The reporting season kicks off Wednesday with aluminum company Alcoa. Profits for S&P 500 companies are expected to fall for the first time since late 2012. But it’s time for a reality check. Yes, all the signs right now point to April showers -- or even thunderstorms -- but spring can show up quickly in many parts of America, including the stock market.

It’s easy to see growth accelerating in the spring and summer again this year. Most economists still predict 2.5 percent to 3 percent GDP for the year -- that would be above the 2.4% expansion of 2014.