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Chinese shares closed 0.10 percent lower on Monday, despite official data showing an improvement in manufacturing activity last month, dealers said.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 2.22 points to 2,234.40 on turnover of 67.0 billion yuan ($10.6 billion).
China's purchasing managers' index (PMI) hit 50.9 in March, from 50.1 in February and reaching the highest level in almost a year, according to official statistics.
Another PMI measure by British bank HSBC came in at 51.6, up from February's 50.4. A PMI reading above 50 indicates an expansion in manufacturing activity, whereas a reading below indicates contraction.
"The new number wasn't too great but the market is holding about steady ahead of first-quarter economic data" later in the month, Central China Securities analyst Zhang Gang told Dow Jones Newswires.
Banking shares remained weak after the industry regulator last week announced rules aimed at tightening risk control. Agricultural Bank of China slid 0.74 percent to 2.68 yuan and China Merchants Bank fell 1.82 percent to 12.40 yuan.
But property shares gained after an independent survey showed Chinese home prices picked up in March. China Vanke, the nation's largest property developer, rose 2.0 percent to 10.97 yuan.
Medical shares climbed after the government said over the weekend that two men had died from a strain of bird flu. Neptunus Bio-Engineering rose its 10 percent daily limit to 7.99 yuan and Lukang Pharmaceutical also rose 10 percent to 4.49 yuan.