Asian markets lifted by China manufacturing data

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A woman chats with her fellow investor at a private securities company Tuesday, March 12, 2013 in Shanghai, China. Asian stock markets dropped Tuesday, dragged down by new worries about China’s recovery and Europe’s doldrums. (AP Photo)

HONG KONG—Asian markets were mixed Thursday as Chinese data showing manufacturing activity in the world’s No. 2 economy picked up in March, while Tokyo was lifted by renewed weakness in the yen.

Traders are also keeping an eye on developments in Europe, where officials in Cyprus will present later in the day a revised fundraising plan to help it access crucial bailout cash.

Wall Street provided a positive lead after the US Federal Reserve kept its huge stimulus measures in place and said the economy has shown signs of picking up.

Tokyo climbed 1.34 percent, adding 167.46 points to 12,635.69 and Shanghai gained 0.30 percent, or 6.87 points, to 2,324,24, but Seoul closed 0.44 percent lower, losing 8.59 points to 1,950.82, while Hong Kong shed 0.14 percent, or 30.56 points, to end at 22,225.88.

Sydney fell 0.16 percent owing to political uncertainty after Prime Minister Julia Gillard called a snap leadership vote among her Labor party, which has grown frustrated at its weak showing in polls ahead of a September election.

The S&P/ASX 200 ended down 7.9 points at 4,959.4 having spent the day either side of the break-even line.

Soon after the market closed Gillard won an unopposed poll as the man tipped to stand against her, Kevin Rudd, opted against running at the last minute.

In China HSBC bank released preliminary figures showing a healthy rise in the manufacturing sector.

The China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to 51.7 in March, from 50.4 in February. A reading above 50 indicates expansion and anything below points to contraction.

The latest figures break a recent spell of worrying results from trade to inflation that have raised concerns about the economy, which saw its weakest growth in 13 years in 2012.

“This implies that the Chinese economy is still on track for gradual growth recovery,” HSBC economist Qu Hongbin said in a statement.

And Hannah Li, senior equity analyst at Sun Hung Kai Financial, told Dow Jones Newswires: “We’ve had a slew of weaker-than-expected economic data for February, so the HSBC flash PMI at least soothes some worries about the Chinese economy.”

In the United States the Federal Reserve ended its latest policy meeting saying it would keep its $85 billion-a-month easing policy in place until the economy had stabilized.

It also said economic growth had rebounded from the flat 2012 fourth quarter to a moderate pace in recent months but trimmed its full-year outlook owing to Europe’s woes and huge cuts in US federal spending that kicked in on March 1.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the policy committee “remains concerned that restrictive fiscal policies may slow economic growth and job creation in coming months.”

The announcement lifted US stocks, with the Dow up 0.39 percent, the S&P 500 adding 0.67 percent and the Nasdaq ending 0.78 percent higher.

On currency markets the euro and dollar eased against the yen, having enjoyed healthy gains in New York trade.

The euro bought $1.2923 and 123.90 yen in Asia Thursday, compared with $1.2937 and 124.17 yen in New York late Wednesday. The dollar fetched 95.84 yen against 95.98 yen.

Later Thursday in Nicosia political leaders will decide on a newly drawn up plan to secure a bailout after parliament rejected a controversial tax on savings, fueling fears it could fail to meet its debt obligations.

President Nicos Anastasiades was to “present a Plan B package to party leaders tomorrow at the presidential palace,” state television reported.

Global markets fell on Monday after Cyprus unveiled a proposal to tax bank savings up to 9.9 percent as part of an agreement with the European Union to qualify for a 10 billion euro bailout.

Oil prices were softer, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, dropping 38 cents to $93.12 a barrel while Brent North Sea crude for May delivery was down 17 cents to $108.73 55.

Gold was at $1,608.40 an ounce at 0810 GMT compared with $1,610.87 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

— Wellington slipped 0.16 percent, or 6.93 points, to 4,342.51.

Mainfreight fell 4.7 percent to NZ$11.20 and Telecom eased 1.3 percent to NZ$2.23, while Fletcher Building was up 1.6 percent at NZ$8.71.

— Manila closed 0.83 percent higher, adding 53.36 points to 6,472.98.

The index had lost 5.79 percent over the previous eight sessions.

SM Investments rose 0.29 percent to 1,025 pesos, Philippine Long Distance Telephone added 3.23 percent to 2,810 pesos and Megaworld Corp. was 2.22 percent up at 3.69 pesos.

— Taipei rose 0.18 percent, or 13.81 points, to 7,811.84.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was 0.10 percent lower at Tw$98.7 while HTC shed 3.04 percent to Tw$239.0.

— Bangkok fell 0.92 percent or 14.15 points to 1,529.52.

Airports of Thailand dropped 3.25 percent to 119 baht, while Bangchak Petroleum added 5.26 percent to 35 baht.

— Jakarta closed down 28.83 points, or 0.60 percent, at 4,802.67.

Indocement Tunggal Prakarsa fell 1.41 percent to 17,500 rupiah, Aneka Tambang slid 0.74 percent to 1,340 rupiah, and Gudang Garam decreased 1.26 percent to 47,150 rupiah.

— Kuala Lumpur shares shed 0.79 points, or 0.05 percent, to close at 1,630.75.

Genting Malaysia lost 2.6 percent to 3.38 ringgit, while Felda Global Ventures Holdings fell 1.1 percent to 4.49. UEM Land Holdings added 3.8 percent to 2.74 ringgit.

— Singapore rose 0.59 percent, or 19.25 points, to close at 3,267.65.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation gained 0.49 percent to Sg$10.25 and City Developments Limited increased 2.72 percent to Sg$10.97.

— Mumbai fell 0.48 percent or 91.32 points at 18,792.87 points.

Tata Motors slid 4.22 percent to 273.75 rupees, while Bajaj Auto fell 4.61 percent to 1,755.3 rupees.

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