HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed on Monday following losses on Wall Street and after a survey indicated manufacturing activity in China was contracting at a faster rate than initial results suggested.
Traders are also keeping a nervous eye on the crisis in Ukraine, where unrest has spread from the east to the south while Russia has warned the country’s leaders to halt a military operation against pro-Kremlin rebels.
Hong Kong tumbled 1.28 percent, or 284.34 points, down at 21,976.33, while Sydney was flat, edging up 4.14 points to 5,462.2 and Shanghai reversed early losses to also end flat, edging up 0.99 points to 2,027.35. Singapore was down 0.11 percent in the afternoon.
Tokyo, Seoul and Bangkok were closed for public holidays.
Banking giant HSBC said Monday its purchasing managers index (PMI) for China last month came in at 48.1, a tad up from the 48.0 in March but weaker than the 48.3 reported in its preliminary report on April 23.
The result adds to fears for the world’s number two economy and key driver of global growth following a slew of weak data recently, including on trade and investment.
A figure below 50 indicates contraction while anything above points to growth.
Last week the government’s official PMI reading came in at 50.4 for April from 50.3 in March.
Monday’s figures showed domestic demand deteriorated at a slower pace but remained sluggish, while the new export orders and employment sub-indices both contracted, Qu Hongbin, a Hong Kong-based economist with HSBC, said in the statement.
“These indicate that the manufacturing sector, and the broader economy as a whole, continues to lose momentum,” he said.
Regional traders were given a negative lead from New York, where events in Eastern Europe overshadowed a better-than-expected jobs report.
Russia warned Ukraine of “catastrophic consequences” unless it ended a military operation against pro-Moscow secessionists in several towns in the east.
At the same time a new front looked to be opening up in the southern city of Odessa, where 38 people died in an arson attack against a trade union building on Friday.
President Barack Obama, speaking at the White House Friday after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, threatened “severe sanctions” if Russia did not alter course.
Yellen testimony in focus
On Wall Street the Dow slipped 0.28 percent, the S&P 500 shed 0.13 percent and the Nasdaq dipped 0.09 percent.
US shares had started on a high after the Labor Department said the economy added 288,000 jobs in April, far above the 210,000 projected by analysts and the most in more than two years.
Coupled with upward revisions for the previous two months, the figures showed a firm rebound in hiring after a tepid winter pace that had spurred worries of a more fundamental downshift in activity.
On currency markets Monday the dollar bought 102.08 yen compared with 102.19 yen in New York on Friday.
The euro fetched $1.3872 against $1.3869, while it was also at 141.60 yen from 141.78 yen.
Traders will be scrutinising Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen’s testimony to Congress on Wednesday to see if she provides any clues about the state of the US economy and the bank’s plans for it stimulus programme.
Oil prices were lower. The US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for June delivery, fell two cents to $99.74 in afternoon trade, while Brent North Sea crude for June dipped 25 cents to $108.34.
Gold fetched $1,308.83 at 0805 GMT compared with $1,285.81 on Friday.