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US jobs boost Asian stocks but gains tempered by Argentina default, Portugal bank bailout

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BEIJING, China - Asian stock markets were mostly higher Monday after a sixth month of healthy employment growth in the U.S. but gains were tempered by jitters over Argentina's debt default and a Portuguese bank bailout.

KEEPING SCORE: China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6 per cent to 2,198.28 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.4 per cent to 24,617.92. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 was flat at 15,519.18 and Seoul also was stable at 3,073.11. Taiwan's benchmark added 0.2 per cent to 9,288.71. Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.3 per cent at 5,536.70. Southeast Asian markets were mixed.

US JOBS: Data on Friday showed the United States added more than 200,000 jobs in July for a sixth straight month. That was slightly below expectations but added to signs an economic recovery is gaining traction. At the same time, most economists don't think the pace of job growth is enough to cause the Federal Reserve to speed up its timetable for raising interest rates. Most still think the Fed will start raising rates to ward off inflation around mid-2015.

ARGENTINA'S DEFAULT: The International Swaps and Derivatives Association ruled on Friday that Argentina had defaulted on its bonds for the second time in 13 years. The ruling came in the midst of a high-profile court dispute with a handful of creditors that has complicated Argentina's repayment plan. The default triggers payments to holders of credit insurance.

ANALYST TAKE: As a result of Argentina's default, "we get skittish investors preferring to stay out of the market," said analyst Desmond Chua of CMC Markets in a report.

PORTUGESE BANK BAILOUT: Portugal's central bank announced late Sunday it will provide 4.9 billion euros ($6.6 billion) in an emergency rescue to prevent the collapse of ailing bank Banco Espirito Santo, one of the country's biggest financial institutions. Banco Espirito Santo's share price plunged by 75 per cent last week after the bank reported a half-year loss of 3.6 billion euros following an audit that revealed previously undisclosed debts.

CURRENCIES, OIL: The dollar rose to 102.66 yen from the previous session's 102.59 yen. The euro declined to $1.3419 from $1.3428. Benchmark U.S. crude for September delivery was up 3 cents at $97.91 a barrel.

WALL STREET

On Friday, the Standard & Poor's 500 lost 5.52 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 1,925.15. The index fell 2.7 per cent last week, its worst weekly performance since June 2012. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 69.93 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 16,493.37. The Nasdaq composite fell 17.13 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,352.64.

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