Asian stocks lower after Wall Street fall, Brexit approval

BEIJING (AP) — Most Asian stock markets declined Thursday after Wall Street fell for a fifth day and Britain’s Cabinet endorsed a draft agreement to leave the European Union.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.7 percent to 21,686.71 points and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 retreated 0.6 percent to 5,696.00. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.3 percent to 2,641.21 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 0.1 percent to 25,689.00. Jakarta gained while New Zealand, Taiwan and other Southeast Asian markets declined.

WALL STREET: U.S. markets were dragged down by losses for tech companies, banks and insurers. Apple Inc. lost 2.8 percent. Bond prices rose as traders shifted money into low-risk assets. That pulled yields down, which hurts banks by driving interest rates on loans lower. Energy stocks rebounded as crude oil prices snapped a 12-day losing streak. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.8 percent to 2,701.58. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.8 percent to 25,080.50. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.9 percent to 7,136.39.

BREXIT: Prime Minister Theresa May persuaded the British Cabinet to back an agreement to separate from the European Union, triggering the final steps toward Brexit. May said the decision is a “decisive step” toward finalizing the exit deal with the EU within days, though it was unclear whether Parliament will go along. The deal would allow Britain to stay in a customs union, bound by EU rules, while the two sides negotiate a trade treaty. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the two sides agreed to avoid a “hard border” between Ireland, a member of the trade bloc, and Northern Ireland.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “Despite the U.K. cabinet backing the new Brexit draft plan, the boost for markets had been short-lived with the sea of worries overruling sentiment,” said Jingyi Pan of IG in a report. Asian markets are “taking after the poor leads from Wall Street” due to “little data” due out in the region.

AUSTRALIAN JOBS: Government data showed employment rose by 32,800 in October, above market expectations for a gain of 20,000. The jobless rate stayed at 5 percent. The annual rate of job creation rose to 2.5 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 32 cents to $55.93 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 56 cents on Wednesday to close at $56.25. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 24 cents to $65.88 per barrel in London. It gained 65 cents the previous session to $66.12.

CURRENCY: The dollar weakened to 113.47 yen from Wednesday’s 113.63 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.1323 from $1.1309.

Texas unemployment rate reaches a 42-year low

Texas’ jobless rate in October dipped to 3.7 percent from 3.8 percent in September — the lowest level since the state started tracking unemployment data in 1976.

The Texas Workforce Commission on Friday said state employers added 32,300 worker to their payroll, marking the 28th consecutive month of job growth.

variety of growing industries,” TWC Chair Ruth R. Hughs said in a news release. “Texas is a state that always welcomes new employers and also supports our homegrown businesses, offering them the tools they need to succeed and build on our continued success as a global economic leader.”

The national unemployment rate also was 3.7 percent, holding steady from September.

For Texas, the overall growth rate was 3.1 percent, with goods-producing industries growing at a brisk 6.6 percent.

Employers in the trade, transportation and utilities sector led the hiring trend with 8,900 positions added over the month. Other strong sectors included leisure and hospitality with 8,700 jobs, followed by education and health services with 5,100 new jobs.

Mining and logging, which takes in oil and gas jobs, added 4,300 workers; the construction industry grew by 1,500 positions.

According to the non-seasonally-adjusted state data, the Midland metropolitan statistical area had the lowest unemployment rate of 2.1 percent. The San Antonio-New Braunfels metro area came in at 3 percent.

Job center bringing opportunities to Wisconsin inmates

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A prison near Madison is giving inmates access to a Wisconsin Job Center to help them prepare for life after their release.

Oakhill Correctional Institution inmates can use the center’s computers with limited internet access to build resumes, search and apply for jobs, and set up interviews via email, Wisconsin Public Radio reported .

“He applied for a job. We got a response back from the employer, and he got offered an interview,” Brikowski said. “So through email, I scheduled the interview for him. He was released on a Thursday. The interview was that following Monday. He went to the interview and got offered the job.”

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has been about 3 percent for the past eight months. State officials say there are more job openings than there are job seekers. Officials hope to open more job centers at prison to help with the issue.

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Ray Allen said officials aim to have the center provide hope.

“Hope for those who had made a mistake,” Allen said. “Hope that gives them the opportunity to become law-abiding, self-sustaining citizens of this great state.”

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said the new center helps the Corrections Department live up to its name.

“So that our folks who come to our Corrections Department are coming not to a punishment department but a corrections department, where there is an opportunity to learn, to grow your skills and to return to the communities from which they came, as 95 percent of them will, with opportunity,” Kleefisch said.