Foreign investors sold more South Korean stocks than they bought for the fourth straight session Monday, while the local currency lost value as investors see growing risks of war on the Korean Peninsula. The dollar rose to 1,140.10 won, its highest level since July 26.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index bounced between gains and losses as investors sized up the potential threat from an outbreak of a new bird flu strain that has sickened 21 people, killing six of them. All cases have been reported in the eastern part of China. The Hang Seng fell marginally to close at 21,718.05.
Health officials believe people are contracting the virus through direct contact with infected fowl and say there's no evidence the virus is spreading easily between people.
"Bird flu and the North Korea situation are still dangling out there. Investors are not very bullish. They are waiting to see how these two things evolve," said Jackson Wong, vice president of Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong.Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 4,905.50, with investors putting aside a worrisome U.S. jobs report to do some bargain-hunting among some recently beaten down shares. U.S. employers added just 88,000 jobs in March, which was half the average of the previous six months. The closely watched report, issued Friday, was a letdown for investors who had become more optimistic about the economy after recent positive signs on housing. Gold-related stocks rose as the price of the precious metal recovered. Newcrest Mining, Australia's No. 1 gold miner, advanced 2 percent. Hong Kong-listed Zijin Mining Group added 2.1 percent. Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 59 cents to $93.28 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 56 cents to close at $92.70 in New York on Friday. The euro rose to $1.3010 from $1.2822. ___ AP Business Writer Youkyung Lee contributed from Seoul.