BANGKOK — Asian stocks meandered without strong direction Monday, as some investors sold shares to lock in profits following recent rallies.
Stocks in Hong Kong, Australian and elsewhere surged last week after U.S. lawmakers passed a bill to avoid a combination of government spending cuts and tax increases that have come to be known as the "fiscal cliff." Japan's Nikkei 225 got an additional boost from the yen's steady retreat against the dollar.
The Nikkei in Tokyo fell 0.2 percent to 10,666.20. The Hong Kong Hang Seng added 0.1 percent to 23,358.41. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.6 percent to 1,000.68. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.1 percent to 4,717. Benchmarks in Singapore and the Philippines rose while Taiwan fell.
On Friday, the U.S. Labor Department said employers added 155,000 jobs in December, showing that hiring held up during the tense fiscal negotiations in Washington. It also said hiring was stronger in November than first thought. The unemployment rate held steady at 7.8 percent.
"This result reinforced the consensus view that the US (labor) market is slowly but surely healing itself," Evan Lucas of IG Markets in Melbourne wrote in an email commentary.
South Korean high-tech shares slumped ahead of the release of a batch of fourth-quarter results later this week, Yonhap News Agency said. Samsung Electronics fell 1.3 percent, LG Electronics was 1.1 percent down, and SK Hynix lost 1.9 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.3 percent to 13,435.21. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.5 percent to 1,466.47, its highest level in five years. The Nasdaq composite index rose 1.09, or 0.04 percent, to 3,101.66.
Benchmark oil for February delivery rose 1 cent to $93.10 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 17 cents to close at $93.09 in New York on Friday.
In currencies, the euro $1.3057 from $1.3072 late Friday in New York. The dollar dropped to 88.04 yen from 88.13 yen.