Asian stock markets uneven on soft China manufacturing data

SEOUL, South Korea – Asian stock markets were uneven Wednesday after reports on China’s manufacturing activity indicated lingering weaknesses in the world’s second-largest economy and U.S. consumer confidence dropped for a second month.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.6 per cent to 16,955.73 while South Korea’s Kospi inched down less than 0.1 per cent to 1,982.72. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was down 0.2 per cent to 20,779.99 while China’s Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.1 per cent to 2,919.21. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slumped 0.9 per cent to 5,328.10. Stock markets in Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines were higher but stocks were lower in Singapore and New Zealand.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “Equity markets seem unimpressed by the recent data releases as both U.S. and European markets all close in the red,” said Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at IG in Melbourne, Australia. “Asian markets do not look like they are heading for a better session.”

CHINA DATA: Earlier on Wednesday, two surveys showed that China’s factory activity was feeble last month, indicating Beijing’s recovery efforts are struggling. An official index by the Chinese Federation of Logistics & Purchasing based on a survey of factory purchasing managers came in at 50.1 in May. Numbers above 50 indicate expansion of factory activity while those below 50 indicate contraction. The private Caixin/Markit survey was more pessimistic with activity falling to 49.2 last month from 49.4 in April.

US CONSUMERS: Reports released on Tuesday showed that U.S. consumer confidence fell in May for a second month and is now at the lowest level since November. The Conference Board said that its index of consumer confidence slipped to 92.6 from 94.7 in April as consumers remain cautious about the outlook for business and job market conditions. The Commerce Department said consumer spending rose 1 per cent in April as purchases of cars and other long-lasting goods increased, while wages and salaries, the most important component of incomes, gained 0.5 per cent.

WALL STREET: U.S. stock markets closed lower. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 86.02 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 17,787.20. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.11 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,096.95. The Nasdaq composite index gained 14.55 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4,948.05.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 44 cents to $48.66 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 23 cents to $49.10 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gave up 52 cents to $49.37 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 109.90 yen from 110.71 yen. The euro fell to $1.1126 from $1.1131.