Asian markets were mixed on Friday, with Tokyo supported by further weakness in the yen, while Hong Kong and Shanghai dipped after official data showed Chinese manufacturing saw a moderate slowdown.
Tokyo were up 0.35 per cent by the break and Sydney climbed 0.65 per cent while Hong Kong shed 0.56 per cent, Shanghai slipped 0.34 per cent and Seoul eased 0.74 per cent.
Beijing released official figures on Friday showing manufacturing activity had seen a slip last month. The purchasing managers index (PMI) came in at 50.4, down from December’s 50.6 and below the 51.0 forecast by economists.
A score above 50 indicates an expansion in manufacturing activity.
The data represent the first halt to a recent rise in activity that has fuelled hopes the world’s number two economy has emerged from the slumber it endured through most of last year.
However, a separate figure by banking giant HSBC showed the PMI at a more than two-year high of 52.3, up from 51.5 in December.
Tang Yonggang, an analyst at Hongyuan Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires: “The (official) PMI reading was lower than expectations, though it wasn’t too low, so the trend of expansion in manufacturing stays somewhat intact.”
China will release crucial trade and inflation figures next week.
Japanese shares enjoyed further advances as investors continued to sell the yen after the Bank of Japan said it would carry out open-ended monetary easing and introduce a two per cent inflation target.
In early Tokyo trade the dollar bought 91.76 yen, up from 91.70 yen in New York late Thursday. The euro rose to 124.90 yen from 124.52 yen, while it also bought US$1.3605, up from US$1.3576.
Wall Street provided a weak lead as investors look ahead to the release late on Friday of non-farm payroll figures for a fresh clue to the state of the economy, days after data showed it a surprise 0.1 per cent contraction in the three months to December.
The Dow fell 0.36 per cent, the S&P 500 dropped 0.26 per cent and the Nasdaq was flat.
On oil markets New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, rose five cents to US$97.54 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March delivery rose 18 cents to US$115.73.
Gold was at US$1,661.10 at 0220 GMT compared with US$1,674.65 late Thursday.