By PAMELA SAMPSON
BANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ A strong U.S. jobs report helped propel Asian stock markets higher on Monday.
The U.S. government reported that the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January and that employers added far more jobs in February than expected, despite higher taxes and cuts in government spending.
The good news overshadowed a credit downgrade slapped on Italy by Fitch Ratings Agency on Friday, which said the country's inconclusive election that left no party in clear control of the government harmed the chances of Italy moving ahead with economic reforms.
"Sentiment was boosted by the better-than-expected US jobs report on Friday, but downgrade of Italy by Fitch over the weekend has casted some doubts ahead," analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in an email commentary.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index marched higher as the yen slid against the dollar. The Nikkei rose 0.9 percent to 12,389.06. Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.6 percent to 23,235.52 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.4 percent to 5,141.70.
On Friday, both the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose for a sixth straight day on the heels of the positive jobs report. The Dow gained 0.5 percent to 14,397.07. The S&P 500 rose 0.5 percent to 1,551.18. The Nasdaq rose 0.4 percent to 3,244.37.
Benchmark oil for April delivery was down 23 cents to $91.72 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 39 cents to finish at $91.95 per barrel on the Nymex on Friday.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2995 from $1.2981 late Friday in New York. The dollar rose to 96.17 yen from 95.70 yen.
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