Asian shares decline as U.S. jobs data clouds global outlook

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares pulled back on Monday after U.S. employment data raised doubts about the strength of the global economy while investor jitters ahead of crucial Brexit votes in the UK parliament this week weighed on the pound.

A pedestrian holding an umbrella walks past an electronic board showing the graphs of the recent fluctuations of Japan’s Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was little changed from Friday’s three-week low. Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.4 percent in early trade after four consecutive sessions in the red last week.

Wall Street’s main indexes posted their biggest weekly decline since the market tumbled at the end of 2018 last week, falling for the fifth consecutive day on Friday on the shocking payrolls data.

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Malaysia seeks to drop murder charge against Indonesian suspect in Kim Jong Nam murder

Indonesian Siti Aisyah, who is on trial for the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader, arrives at the Shah Alam High Court on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian prosecutors on Monday applied to withdraw a murder charge against an Indonesian woman accused of killing the half-brother of North Korea’s leader.

The trial of Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 26, was suspended in December as her lawyers argued with prosecutors over access to statements made by seven witnesses.

Prosecutors told the court they had been instructed to withdraw the charge against Siti Aisyah. No reason was given for the application.

U.S. Olympic medalist Kelly Catlin dies at age 23

FILE PHOTO: 2016 Rio Olympics – Cycling Track – Victory Ceremony – Women’s Team Pursuit Victory Ceremony – Rio Olympic Velodrome – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 13/08/2016.Sarah Hammer (USA) of USA, Kelly Catlin (USA) of USA, Chloe Dygert (USA) of USA and Jennifer Valente (USA) of USA on podium with the silver medals. REUTERS/Matthew Childs

(Reuters) – Olympian Kelly Catlin, who helped the United States win the women’s pursuit team silver medal at the 2016 Rio Games, has died, USA Cycling said on Sunday. The three-time world champion was 23.

“The U.S. cycling community suffered a devastating loss with the passing of Kelly Catlin,” USA Cycling President and Chief Executive Rob DeMartini said in a statement. “Kelly was more than an athlete to us, and she will always be part of the USA Cycling family.”

Trump budget seeks 5 percent cut in non-defense spending: OMB

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will propose in his fiscal 2020 budget on Monday that the U.S. Congress cut non-defense spending by 5 percent while boosting spending on the military, veterans’ healthcare and border security, the White House budget office said on Sunday.

U.S. President Donald Trump walks out to talk to reporters as he departs for travel to Alabama and Florida from the White House in Washington, U.S. March 8, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The Republican president’s proposal, slated for release at 11:30 a.m. (1530 GMT) on the Office of Management and Budget’s website, is expected to be the first volley in this year’s bitter funding fight with Congress, which has control over federal purse strings.

His budget blueprint is expected to be rejected by Congress, where Democrats control the House of Representatives. Spending bills typically need 60 votes to get through the 100-member Senate, where Trump’s fellow Republicans hold 53 seats.

Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate immediately panned Trump’s request for $8.6 billion to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico, reported by Reuters earlier on Sunday.

U.S. February job growth weakest in nearly one and a half years

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. employment growth almost stalled in February, with the economy creating only 20,000 jobs, adding to signs of a sharp slowdown in economic activity in the first quarter.

The meager payroll gains reported by the Labor Department on Friday were the weakest since September 2017, with a big drop in the weather-sensitive construction industry.

They also reflected a decline in hiring by retailers and utility companies as well as the transportation and warehousing sector, which is experiencing a shortage of drivers.

The sharp step-down in payrolls was another blow to President Donald Trump who has suffered a series of setbacks in recent weeks, including failed nuclear talks with North Korea, a record goods trade deficit despite his administration’s “America First” policies and the economy missing the White House’s 3 percent annual growth target in 2018.

But the stumble in job growth, which followed two straight months of hefty gains, likely understates the health of the labor market as other details of the closely watched employment report were strong.

The unemployment rate fell back to below 4 percent and a wider measure of underemployment fell by the most ever. In addition, annual wage growth was the best since 2009, and the economy created 12,000 more jobs in December and January than previously reported, bringing the total for the two months to 538,000.

“We had warned that recent employment gains had overstated the underlying strength of the U.S. labor market,” said Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit Research in New York. “And the correction now came in February with a bang, rather than spread out over various months.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell made no mention of the latest numbers in remarks delivered more than 12 hours later, noting simply that most measures of the labor market “look as favorable as they have in many decades” and adding that there is “nothing in the outlook demanding an immediate policy response.”

But the mixed report was another indication the economy, which in July is set to mark a record 10 years of expansion, is slowing as the stimulus from a $1.5 trillion tax cut and increased government spending ebbs.

What stood out in the February U.S. jobs report.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Headline U.S. job growth hit the brakes in February, registering the smallest gain since September 2017 and the third-smallest during the unprecedented run of 101 consecutive months of payrolls gains.

Here are five factors that stood out in the Labor Department’s report.

The big question on the minds of economists and investors is whether February was an anomaly or the start of cyclical weakening in the U.S. job market.

Since the uninterrupted employment expansion began in October 2010, the only two weaker months than February’s 20,000 increase were in May 2016 at 15,000 and September 2017 at 18,000. In both cases, job growth snapped back the next month, rising by more than 250,000 in both cases.