Hong Kong: Asian shares were mostly lower Monday as Chinese manufacturing activity slipped, Japanese business confidence fell, and worries persisted over the euro zone debt crisis.
In Tokyo the benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.83%, or 73.65 points, at 8,796.51, and Singapore slipped 0.08%, or 2.48 points, to 3,057.86, but Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 crept up 0.04%, or 1.6 points, to 4,388.6.
Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul were all closed for public holidays.
The falls came after Wall Street dropped on Friday and official data Monday showed manufacturing activity in China, the world’s second-biggest economy, contracted for a second straight month in September.
The government’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) stood at 49.8, falling short of expectations. A PMI reading above 50 indicates expansion, while one below points to contraction.
It came after British bank HSBC at the weekend released its own PMI of 47.9, its 11th consecutive month of contraction.
“The manufacturing side is still very weak,” said independent economist Andy Xie, citing sluggish exports and a property slump as factors. “You go around the country, you can see all the cranes standing there, not working.”
China’s economic growth slowed to 7.6% in the three months to June, its weakest since the height of the global financial crisis three years ago.
Beijing has expressed confidence it will achieve its 2012 economic growth target of 7.5%, though that would mark a sharp slowdown from 9.3% last year and 10.4% in 2010.
Lee Kok Joo, head of research at Phillip Securities in Singapore, told Dow Jones Newswires: “The macro picture is still in contraction mode. Investors are still very cautious of going into the market.”
In Tokyo, the Bank of Japan said confidence among large manufacturers worsened in the quarter ended September, with businesses suffering from a territorial spat with Beijing over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Auto giants Toyota and Nissan said last week they would cut production in China, Japan’s largest trading partner, because demand for Japanese cars has dropped.
Europe’s debt crisis was also in investors’ minds, with Spain’s economic descent accelerating in recent days amid increasing anti-austerity protests, and Madrid now appearing increasingly likely to apply for a sovereign bailout.
Madrid has unveiled swingeing cuts of €39 billion ($50 billion) in government spending, including a third straight year of salary freezes for civil servants, reducing its deficit to 2.8% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014.
But it is projecting debt to reach 85.3% of GDP in 2012 and 90.5% in 2013.
Greek finance minister Yannis Stournaras was to hold crucial talks later Monday with his country’s international creditors, as Athens’ latest round of cuts went before parliament.
The European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank are to decide whether the cuts are sufficient to unlock €31.5 billion ($40.5 billion) in frozen loans under Greece’s bailout.
But the single currency was changing hands at $1.2897 and 100.55 yen, up from $1.2856 and 100.12 yen in New York late Friday, while the dollar was at 77.98 yen, from 77.88 yen.
On oil markets New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in November, shed 22 cents to $91.97 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for November retreated 38 cents to $112.01.
Gold was at $1,770.50 at 1010 GMT compared with $1,778.10 on Friday.
In other markets:
—Taipei fell 0.51%, or 39.44 points, to 7,675.72.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. shed 1% to Tw$88.9 while leading smartphone maker HTC gained 2.29% at Tw$290.5.
—Wellington closed off 0.11%, or 4.12 points, to 3,830.03.
Telecom Corp. was 0.63% down at NZ$2.36.
—Manila was down 0.70%, or 37.50 points, to 5,308.52.
Top-traded Ayala Corp. slipped 1.69% to 419 pesos while Alliance Global Group Inc. slipped 0.63% to 14.60 pesos.
—Kuala Lumpur was up 0.41%, or 6.65 points, to 1,643.31.
Genting Malaysia gained 2.6% to 3.59 ringgit, while UEM Land Holdings Bhd added 2.4% to 1.72. Telekom Malaysia lost 0.8% to 6.14 ringgit.
—Jakarta fell 0.62%, or 26.27 points, to 4,236.29.
Vale Indonesia fell 2.5% to 2,875 rupiah, Indo Tambangraya lost 2.1% to 41,250 rupiah, while Gudang Garam rose 5.3% to 48,900 rupiah.
—Bangkok gained 0.07% or 0.92 points to 1,299.71.
Coal producer Banpu added 1.79% to 399.00 baht, while electricity firm EGCO edged up 0.77% to 131.00 baht.
—Mumbai rose 0.33%, or 61.17 points, to 18,823.91.
Leading software outsourcer Infosys Ltd rose 2.96% to Rs.2,609.1 ahead of its quarterly results due later this month, while vehicle maker Tata Motors Ltd rose 2.65% to Rs.274.55. AFP