* Nikkei leads Asian shares lower, hurt by yen
* Dlr defensive as traders reduce bets on Fed tapering in Sept
* NZ dlr plunges on food safety scare affecting top exporter
* Aussie hits 3-yr low ahead of likely rate cut by RBA
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Asian shares were soft and the U.S. dollar was on the defensive on Monday after data showed U.S. employers slowed their pace of hiring in July, while the New Zealand dollar tumbled after a food-safety scare affected dairy exports of the country’s largest company.
Japan’s Nikkei share average fell 1.0 percent while ex-Japan Asian shares dropped 0.2 percent, in contrast to Wall Street which ended at record highs on Friday in part helped by expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve may delay scaling back its stimulus.
“I think the yen will undermine Japanese shares while other regional shares will probably be more supported by gains in Wall Street shares,” said Ayako Sera, senior market economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.
The dollar slipped to around 98.83 yen, down from a high around 99.95 seen late last week.
U.S. non-farm payrolls rose by 162,000 in July, more than 20,000 below a median market estimate, and a decline in the size of the workforce saw the unemployment rate fall to 7.4 percent, its lowest in more than four years.
That saw some banks push back forecasts for when the Fed would begin tapering its $85 billion-a-month bond buying, although half of the 18 primary dealers still expect it to start next month, a Reuters poll showed.
U.S. 10-year T-notes traded at a yield of 2.609 percent , having plunged more than 10 basis points on Friday after the jobs data.
U.S. interest rate futures were firm on Monday after sizable gains on Friday as traders increased bets the Fed would wait until 2015 before raising short-term borrowing costs.
The dollar index was little changed at 81.934, having fallen 0.5 percent on Friday and coming within sight of a six-week low of 81.407 hit on July 31.
The euro bought $1.3281, holding on to most of Friday’s gains.
The biggest mover was the New Zealand dollar, which fell to a 14-month low after dairy exporter Fonterra, the country’s largest company, found botulism bacteria in some of its products, which prompted China to halt all milk powder imports from New Zealand and Australia.
The kiwi fell to as low as $0.7670 and last stood at $0.7745, 1.1 percent below its levels late last week.
“It’s a pretty serious development for New Zealand given how important dairy is. But what usually happens with these food quality issues is that as details come out, people tend to feel more reassured,” said Chris Tennent-Brown, FX economist at Commonwealth Bank in Sydney.
The Australian dollar also slipped sharply to a three-year low of $0.8848, after the country’s retail sales data fell short of market forecast and reinforced expectations of further rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).
Swap rates now imply a 91 percent chance that rates will fall 25 basis points to a record low of 2.50 percent at the RBA’s policy meeting on Tuesday.
Oil prices also eased off following the U.S. payrolls data, with Brent futures standing at $109.03 per barrel, a tad below the four-month high of $110.09 hit on Friday.