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Asian shares fall after weak data pushes US stocks lower

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Asian markets slipped Thursday after US stocks tumbled on the back of weak employment and manufacturing data, as dealers eyed a policy meeting of the European Central Bank later in the day.

Tokyo closed down 0.76 percent, or 105.31 points, at 13,649.04, Seoul fell 0.34 percent, or 6.74 points, to finish at 1,957.21, while Sydney ended 0.70 percent, or 36.2 points, lower at 5,130.0.

Hong Kong fell 0.30 percent, or 68.71 points, to 22,668.30 while Shanghai was down 0.17 percent, or 3.79 points, at 2,174.12, a day after official data showed that manufacturing activity in China slowed last month.

US markets fell Wednesday following the release of separate reports showing that job growth eased to its slowest level in seven months in April and that manufacturing activity had slowed sharply in the same month.

The data came as the Federal Reserve gave a tepid economic outlook at the close of its two-day monetary policy meeting.

As widely expected, the Federal Open Market Committee held its key interest rate at zero to 0.25 percent.

The central bank also kept its $85-billion-a-month bond-buying programme in place but left the door open to step up bond purchases if the economy slowed under the government's severe "sequester" spending cuts.

"The Fed's comments show that the risk of weaker economic growth, accompanied by a 'disinflationary' effect is possible, denting the global economic recovery," Norihiro Fujito, a strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities told Dow Jones Newswires.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones lost 0.94 percent, the S&P 500 fell 0.93 percent and the Nasdaq sank 0.89 percent.

The dollar slipped to 97.19 yen in afternoon Tokyo trade Thursday from 97.40 yen in New York Wednesday afternoon.

The euro also eased in Asia to 128.01 yen from 128.37 yen while the single currency was at $1.3167 against $1.3180 in US trade ahead of a policy meeting of the ECB.

There was speculation that European policymakers meeting in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava would cut interest rates from current record lows and also unveil new measures to kick-start stymied bank lending.

European stocks fell in early trade ahead of the ECB decision. London dipped 0.17 percent, Paris eased 0.80 percent while Frankfurt was flat.

Chinese shares Thursday were dampened by the May Day holiday release of the government's closely watched purchasing managers' index, which dropped to 50.6 in April, down from 50.9 in March.

British bank HSBC, whose survey focuses more on smaller enterprises, said last week that its preliminary PMI for April stood at 50.5, also down from a final reading of 51.6 in March.

The PMI is a widely watched indicator of the health of the Chinese economy, with a reading above 50 indicating expansion while anything below that points to contraction.

The April figure marked the seventh consecutive month of expanding manufacturing activity in the country, but was down slightly from a nearly one-year high the month before. Analysts said it was weaker than expected.

Oil rebounded following recent falls. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June was up 40 cents at $91.43 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for June delivery added 73 cents to stand at $100.68 in afternoon trade.

An ounce of gold fetched $1,455.00 at 1035 GMT, compared with $1,469.05 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Wellington slid 0.62 percent, or 28.55 points, to 4,674.46.

Skellerup was off 10.14 percent at NZ$1.33 while Fletcher Building slipped 0.46 percent to NZ$8.59.

-- Taipei rose 0.43 percent, or 34.85 points, to 8,128.51.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. gained 0.91 percent at Tw$110.5 while chip design company MediaTek added 1.67 percent to stand at Tw$366.0

-- Manila was up 0.32 percent, or 22.43 points, at 7,093.42.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. rose 1.1 percent to 3,080 pesos and Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. added 0.16 percent at 124.70 pesos.

-- Jakarta ended down 1.32 percent, or 66.87 points, at 4,994.05.

Miner Aneka Tambang fell 1.46 percent to 1,350 rupiah, while cement maker Semen Indonesia gained 0.80 percent to 18,950 rupiah.

-- Singapore rose 1.02 percent, or 34.21 points, to 3,402.39.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation gained 0.65 percent at Sg$10.92 while real estate developer Capitaland shed 0.27 percent to Sg$3.73.

-- Kuala Lumpur fell 0.24 percent, or 4.19 points, to 1,713.46.

Tenaga Nasional slid 0.8 percent to 7.79 ringgit, while Gamuda dropped 0.3 percent to 4.06.

-- Bangkok dropped 0.54 percent, or 8.67 points, to 1,589.19.

Convenience store operator CP ALL fell 5.68 percent to 41.50 baht, while Thai Airways International jumped 4.24 percent to 30.75 baht.

-- Mumbai rose 1.19 percent, or 231.59 points, to 19,735.77.

India's largest IT outsourcer TCS rose 3.84 percent to 1,429.1 rupees and mobile phone firm Reliance Communications rose 8.3 percent to 105.05 rupees.

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