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Asian stock markets fall after U.S. hiring slows

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets declined Monday after U.S. hiring slowed in March, raising doubts about the durability of the recovery in the world's No. 1 economy.

Oil prices fell to near $102 a barrel amid hopes international talks this week may help avoid military action over Iran's nuclear program.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index lost 1.5 percent to 9,546.26 and China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.9 percent to 2,285.78. Seoul shed 1.6 percent to 1,997.08. Hong Kong, Sydney and Bangkok were closed for holidays.

In Europe, the Frankfurt, Paris and London markets were also closed.

U.S. employers added 120,000 jobs last month, according to the Labor Department. That was half the December-February pace and well short of the 210,000 economists were expecting.

"The regional markets may have overreacted to one job report since the U.S. economic data released prior to Friday were generally healthy," said analyst Alex Huang of Taipei's Mega Securities Corp.

Investors also were watching China, where analysts expect data due this week to show economic growth slowed further in the latest quarter.

"One can hardly expect very encouraging news to boost the markets either," Huang said.

The U.S. unemployment rate fell from 8.3 percent in February to 8.2 percent, the lowest since January 2009, but that was largely because many Americans stopped looking for work.

Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan's Taiex lost 1.4 percent to 7,600.87 and Singapore's benchmark fell 1 percent to 2,956.72. India's Sensex shed 1.2 percent to 17,278.4.

In currency markets, the dollar rose slightly to 81.47 yen while the euro was down just over 0.1 percent at $1.306.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was down $1.30 to $102.01 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added $1.84 to settle at $103.31 in New York on Thursday. The global oil market was closed Friday for the Good Friday holiday.

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Associated Press writer Annie Huang in Taipei contributed.

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