HONG KONG: Asian markets edged up on Monday following a record close on Wall Street at the end of last week, while analysts said data indicating sluggishness
in the Chinese economy could prompt fresh stimulus from Beijing.
The dollar maintained Friday’s Wall Street gains above 104 yen despite increasing tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
Tokyo closed up 0.34 percent, or 52.01 points, at 15,476.60 and Sydney ended slightly higher, adding 3.9 points to 5,629.8.
Seoul closed marginally lower, giving up 0.68 points to 2,067.86.
Shanghai was up 0.63 percent in late trade while Hong Kong was 0.16 percent higher.
China said Monday that its official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) of manufacturing activity slipped to 51.1 last month. That is down from 51.7 in July—a more than two-year high—and the first decline since February.
Anything above 50 indicates growth and anything below suggests contraction.
The latest figure was just above the median 51.0 forecast in a survey of 10 economists by Dow Jones Newswires.
In a separate report, HSBC said its own August PMI came in at 50.2, well off the 51.7 seen the previous month.
However, while the figures were disappointing RBS economist Louis Kuijs said they could usher in more accommodating policy measures.
“Perceiving that its 7.5-percent [gross domestic product]growth target for 2014 is challenged, we expect the government to step up the rollout of measures to support growth,” Kuijs said in a note.
Dealers track Ukraine tensions
US dealers provided a useful lead, despite worries about a possible military confrontation between Kiev and Moscow after NATO said about 1,000 Russian troops were in Ukraine.
The S&P 500—which ended above 2,000 for the first time last week—rose 0.33 percent to a new record Friday, the Dow added 0.11 percent and the Nasdaq put on 0.50 percent to end at its highest level in 14 years.
While markets were up, investors are keeping an eye on events in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday raised the stakes by calling for the first time for statehood to be discussed for the restive east of the former Soviet state.
The remarks came just hours after the European Union gave Moscow—accused by the EU of direct involvement in the insurgency—a week to change course or face new sanctions.
Currency traders remained upbeat, supporting the dollar against the yen even though the Japanese unit is considered a safe bet in times of economic and political uncertainty.
In afternoon Asian trade the greenback fetched 104.14 yen, up from 104.06 yen in New York Friday afternoon.
The euro bought $1.3130 and 136.74 yen against $1.3139 and 136.72 yen.
On oil markets US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for October delivery eased 14 cents to $95.82. Brent crude for October rose five cents to $103.24 in afternoon trade.
Gold traded at $1,287.90 an ounce at 6:40 a.m. local time, from $1,285.00 on Friday.