• Weak US Data Pushes Asian Shares Lower

    Hong Kong, May 2, 2013 (AFP) – Asian markets slipped Thursday after US stocks tumbled on the back of weak employment and manufacturing data, as dealers eyed a policy meeting of the European Central Bank later in the day.

    Tokyo was down 0.51 percent by the break, Seoul fell 0.39 percent and Sydney was 0.69 percent lower.

    Hong Kong eased 0.19 percent while Shanghai was down 0.20, a day after official data showed that manufacturing activity in China slowed last month.

    US markets fell Wednesday following the release of separate reports showing that job growth dropped to its slowest level in seven months in April and that manufacturing activity had slowed sharply in the same month.

    The data came as the Federal Reserve gave a tepid economic outlook at the close of its two-day monetary policy meeting.

    As widely expected, the Federal Open Market Committee held its key interest rate at zero to 0.25 percent.

    The central bank also kept its $85 billion a month bond-buying programme in place but left the door open to step up bond purchases if the economy slowed under the government’s severe “sequester” spending cuts.

    “The Fed’s comments show that the risk of weaker economic growth, accompanied by a ‘disinflationary’ effect is possible, denting the global economic recovery,” Norihiro Fujito, a strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities told Dow Jones Newswires.

    On Wall Street, the Dow Jones lost 0.94 percent, the S&P 500 fell 0.93 percent and the Nasdaq sank 0.89 percent.

    The dollar slipped to 97.35 yen in morning Tokyo trade Thursday from 97.40 yen in New York Wednesday afternoon.

    The euro also eased in Asia to 128.30 yen from 128.37 yen while holding steady at $1.3179 against $1.3180 in US trade ahead of a policy meeting of the ECB.

    There was speculation amongst dealers that European policymakers would cut interest rates from current record lows and also unveil new measures to kick-start stymied bank lending.

    Chinese shares Thursday were dampened by the May Day holiday release of the closely watched purchasing managers index which dropped to 50.6 in April, down from 50.9 in March.

    Oil prices eased, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, dropping 16 cents to $90.87 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for June delivery shedding a cent to $99.94.

    An ounce of gold fetched $1,454.84 at 0305 GMT, compared with $1,469.05 late Wednesday.

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