China stocks lead losses among major Asia-Pacific markets

SINGAPORE — Stocks in Asia-Pacific were mixed in Thursday trade, with Australia’s jobs data for March beating expectations.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.39%.

Australia’s unemployment rate for March came in at 5.6%, according to seasonally adjusted estimates released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Thursday, against expectations of a 5.7% reading in a Reuters poll. Data from the ABS also showed 70,700 net new jobs being created in March, more than double the forecast in a Reuters poll for a 35,000 rise.

Mainland Chinese stocks slipped, with the Shanghai composite down 1.18% while the Shenzhen component declined 1.384%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.96%.

Elsewhere in Japan, the Nikkei 225 advanced fractionally while the Topix index gained 0.38%. South Korea’s Kospi advanced 0.35%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan traded 0.29% lower.

Covid developments

In coronavirus developments, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel decided Wednesday to postpone a decision on Johnson and Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine following the development of a rare but potentially life-threatening blood-clotting disorder in six women.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked states to temporarily halt using J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine “out of an abundance of caution.”

All that comes as authorities globally are racing to inoculate their populations as the virus continues to spread, with the World Health Organization warning Monday that the trajectory of the pandemic is “growing exponentially.”

Overnight on Wall Street, the S&P 500 shed 0.41% to close at 4,124.66 while the Nasdaq Composite declined about 1% to finish its trading day at 13,857.84. The Dow Jones Industrial Average nudged 53.62 points higher, closing at 33,730.89.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 91.679 following its decline from above 92.1 earlier in the week.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.85 per dollar, stronger than levels above 109.6 against the greenback seen earlier this week. The Australian dollar was at $0.771, having climbed from levels below $0.765 yesterday.

Oil prices were little changed in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures flat at $66.58 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also shed 0.1% to $63.09.

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