Asian markets on Monday extended last week’s rally as a solid US jobs report boosted optimism in the world’s top economy, fuelling a record close on Wall Street. With sentiment still strong following Donald Trump’s decision to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in an unprecedented summit to discuss its nuclear programme, equities were on the up. The upbeat developments helped temper worries about Trump’s announcement of steel and aluminium tariffs that sparked a sell-off earlier this month on worries about a trade war. All three main indexes in New York rose almost two percent on Friday with the Nasdaq chalking up a fresh record, erasing all the losses suffered through a tumultuous February. Those gains extended into Asia, with Tokyo ending 1.7 percent higher, while Hong Kong climbed 1.6 percent, Shanghai finished 0.6 percent higher and Seoul put on one percent. Sydney rose 0.6 percent, helped by news Australia had won an exemption from Trump’s tariffs, Singapore piled on 1.6 percent and Taipei added more than one percent. There were also healthy gains in Wellington, Manila and Jakarta. Best of both worlds Investors were cheered by US Labor Department data that showed employers added a forecast-busting 313,000 jobs in February. The closely-watched monthly report also revealed moderating wage growth compared with the January report, mitigating concerns the Federal Reserve will speed its pace of interest rate hikes. Markets were sent spiralling down after the January jobs data, which showed wage growth surging and fanned concerns the Fed would likely have to ramp up its pace and number of rate hikes. “The best of both worlds for equity markets, with the economy in full swing but nary a sign of wage inflation,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trade at OANDA. “It doesn’t get much better than that for investors and at least for now has dampened the inflationary fears that weighed on investor sentiment in February. When coupled with an easing in trade rhetoric and positive news from the Korean Peninsula, risk sentiment is powering higher.” Published in Daily Times, March 13th 2018.