Asia stocks down, China manufacturing growth slows
BANGKOK — Asian stock markets fell Wednesday in holiday-thinned trading after the pace of China’s manufacturing growth slowed in April, raising fears of a weaker recovery in the world’s second-largest economy.
The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said its purchasing managers’ index fell to 50.6 in April from 50.9 in March on a 100-point scale on which readings above 50 indicate an expansion.
The industry group quoted economist Zhang Lijun as saying that steadily declining export orders and other indicators portend a slight decline in economic growth.
Analysts said the data slightly undershot expectations. Most had been expecting a reading of 50.7.
“Although conditions in Asia’s industrial sector have improved, they still remain weak by historic standards,” said Daniel Martin of Capital Economics in Singapore.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.4 percent to 13,811.55 as the yen gained strength against the dollar. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.4 percent to 5,170.80 as investors took profits off the table after the market hit a five-year high Tuesday. New Zealand’s benchmark fell while Indonesia rose.
Many stock markets were closed for May Day holidays, including those in Hong Kong, mainland China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.
Among individual stocks, Japan’s Sharp Corp. fell 5.6 percent. Kyodo News agency reported that the struggling electronics maker was likely to report a larger-than-expected net loss for fiscal 2012 on May 14. Australia’s OZ Minerals fell 4 percent.
U.S. stocks finished modestly higher Tuesday, giving the Standard & Poor’s 500 index another record close and its sixth straight month of gains.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 21.05 points, or 0.1 percent, to 14,839.80. The S&P 500 rose 0.3 percent to 1,597.57. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.7 percent to 3,328.79.
Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 43 cents to $93.03 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.04 to finish at $93.46 per barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3161 from $1.3158 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell to 97.29 yen from 97.51 yen.