Asian shares ease, Easter slows trade

Mon Apr 1, 2013 6:25am EDT
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By Chikako Mogi

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares and the euro fell on Monday in choppy trade with exchanges closed in several Asian markets, including Australia and Hong Kong, as well as in Europe for Easter holidays.

Investors will look for market direction from Markit's U.S. final manufacturing PMI for March and the Institute for Supply Management's March manufacturing index due later in the session.

Analysts have said a growth trend in the U.S. is crucial to maintain global risk-positive sentiment. It is the outperformance in U.S. equities on solid U.S. economic reports that has helped drive global shares and other risk asset prices generally higher in the first quarter.

From Asia, surveys showed that stronger domestic demand helped China's factory activity to rebound in March, with new orders up sharply in a sign that the underlying economic recovery is strong enough to weather risks from patchy export performance.

The official manufacturing purchasing managers index (PMI) for March showed China's factory output ran at its fastest in 11 months at a reading of 50.9, below 52.0 forecasts by economists but still signaling economic recovery may be accelerating.

A private HSBC final PMI survey also rose to 51.6, roughly in line with a flash reading of 51.7 and up from February's 50.4.

Oil markets focused on the official PMI missing market projections as raising concerns about easing demand, sending U.S. crude futures down 0.5 percent to $96.78 a barrel and Brent down 0.3 percent to $109.66.

"The data came in below market expectations, which could indicate that oil demand growth may not expand quite as quickly as we would like it to," said Carl Larry, president of Oil Outlooks and Opinion, based in Houston.   Continued...

A man is reflected on a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo March 25, 2013. REUTERS/Issei Kato