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Asian stocks waver after China PMI disappoints

By Lisa Twaronite
24 July 2013 @ 04:24 pm AEST


Asian stock markets wobbled on Wednesday, while the dollar took back some ground after the latest reading on China's manufacturing activity showed activity slowed to an 11-month low in July as new orders faltered and the job market darkened.

European markets could shrug off the impact of the downbeat China data if German and French manufacturing and services PMI surveys show a slight improvement as expected.

Financial spreadbetters expect Britain's FTSE 100 <.FTSE> to open around 13 points higher, or up 0.2 percent; Germany's DAX <.GDAXI> to open 13 points higher, or up 0.16 percent; and France's CAC 40 <.FCHI> to open 8 to 9 points higher, or up 0.2 percent.

The flash HSBC/Markit Purchasing Managers' Index for China fell to 47.7 this month from June's final reading of 48.2, marking a third straight month below the 50 threshold between expansion and contraction.

"The lower reading of the July HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI suggests a continuous slowdown in manufacturing sectors thanks to weaker new orders and faster destocking," said Hongbin Qu, chief China economist of HSBC.

"This adds more pressure on the labor market," he said.

Worries of a rapid slowdown in the world's second-biggest economy as well as expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will begin to trim its massive bond-buying stimulus later this year have rattled global markets in recent weeks.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> pared an earlier rise to its highest since June 7, and was last up about 0.1 percent.

China shares were headed for their first loss in three days after the data, weighing on Hong Kong markets. The Shanghai Composite Index <.SSEC> slid 0.8 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index <.HSI> edged down 0.1 percent.

Japan's Nikkei share average <.N225> ended down 0.3 percent, giving back some of its two-day rally, after government data showed the country's export growth unexpectedly slowed in June from a year earlier. The figures were a worrying sign that China's slowing economy hurt overseas demand and could potentially threaten Japan's economic recovery.

In U.S. trading on Tuesday, the S&P 500 snapped a four-session winning streak and retreated from Monday's record closing high, while upbeat results from United Technologies bolstered the Dow, which also touched a record intraday high.

The Australian dollar also erased its early gains against its U.S. counterpart and skidded after the China data, tumbling 0.5 percent to $0.9251.

Tame inflation data left the door open for the Reserve Bank of Australia to cut interest rates next month if it chooses, though key measures of underlying inflation were a touch higher than expected.

"If the RBA thinks the economy needs a stimulus hit, these data are completely consistent with that. Our view is that growth is slowing in the economy. So we would expect the RBA to cut rates in August," said Brian Redican, a senior economist at Macquarie.

Still, swap markets indicated a slightly smaller chance of a further RBA easing, implying a 56 percent chance of a cut in August, down from 62 percent in early trade.

Yields on U.S. benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rose to 2.518 percent from their U.S. close of 2.507 percent, though still well below a two-year high of 2.76 percent touched on July 8.

The euro slipped after the China data and was last down 0.2 percent at $1.3203. It rose as high as $1.3238 on Tuesday, its highest level since June 21.

Against the yen, the dollar took back some lost ground, rising 0.4 percent to 99.84 yen, moving away from a one-week low of 99.13 yen touched in the previous session.

The dollar index <.DXY> extended gains, adding 0.3 percent to 82.153, after it skidded to a one-month low of 81.926 on Tuesday. The index set a three-year high of 84.753 last week.

Recent price action suggests that market players are still long the dollar, which could weigh on the greenback, said Hiroshi Maeba, head of FX trading Japan for UBS in Tokyo.

Commodity markets had pushed higher ahead of the China manufacturing reading, but those gains unraveled in its wake.

Copper dropped 0.6 percent to $6,997.50 a tonne, after earlier touching a session high of $7,060, its loftiest since June 18. U.S. crude fell 0.1 percent to $107.11 a barrel.

Spot gold remained above the $1,300 an ounce after a four-session rally pushed prices to a one-month high on Tuesday, but it dropped 0.6 percent to $1,339.54 an ounce as investors took profits.

(Additional reporting by Langi Chiang and Jonathan Standing in Beijing, Wayne Cole in Sydney and Masayuki Kitano in Singapore; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Copyright 2009 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

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