BANGKOK (AP) -- A slowdown in U.S. factory production sent Asian stock markets lower Tuesday, while Japan's Nikkei slipped as the yen rose against the dollar.
U.S. manufacturing expanded more slowly in March than February, the Institute for Supply Management said Monday, held back by weaker growth in production and new orders.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.8 percent to 12,040.10 as the yen's recent weakness reversed course. A stronger currency makes products sold abroad more expensive, a hardship for Japan's export-dependent economy.
Analysts said, however, that the new government in Japan, with its new plan of attack to right the country's economy, has lifted business optimism. A survey released by the Bank of Japan on Monday showed an improvement in business sentiment, although it was smaller than expected.
"The economy is improving, albeit slowly, and the mood has been lifted by the assertive and coordinated economic plan of the new government," Moody's Analytics said in a market commentary.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng vacillated — opening higher, dropping, then flat at 22,303.03.
"There are still some uncertainties out there," said Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong. "Right now my concern is the overall market is not too stable at the current level."
One factor contributing to market jitters, Yip said, was the dire debt situation in the weaker euro economies. The latest iteration of the crisis came Monday, when Cyprus was granted more time to reach its budget surplus target since the country's growth is likely to slow as a result of the drastic shrinking of its finance industry.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.4 percent to 4,984.10. South Korea's Kospi opened higher but then gave up its gains by midday. It was 0.6 percent down at 1,983.99. Benchmarks in mainland China, Malaysia, the Philippines and New Zealand also fell.
Among individual stocks, Australia's Dart Energy Ltd. plunged nearly 43 percent after announcing major restructuring and cost-cutting after tighter government restrictions on coal seam gas projects.
Wall Street stocks got off to a slow start Monday following a three-day holiday. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped less than 0.1 percent to close at 14,572.85. The S&P 500 fell 0.5 percent to close at 1,562.17. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.9 percent to 3,239.17.
Benchmark oil for May delivery was down 33 cents to $96.75 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 16 cents to close at $97.07 a barrel on the Nymex on Monday.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2860 from $1.2804 late Monday in New York. The dollar fell to 92.83 yen from 94.22 yen.
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