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US economy fears stalk markets

Pan Pylas, AP Business Writer

A man looks at an electronic stock board outside a securities firm Monday, June 3, 2013, in Tokyo. Uncertainty about the U.S. Federal Reserve's next course of action and a sharp, sudden plunge on Wall Street sent Asian stock markets lower Monday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index lost 2.2 percent to 13,475.64, echoing U.S. stock markets losses Friday. The Dow dropped more than 200 points, its worst drop in six weeks. (AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa)

LONDON (AP) -- A weaker-than-anticipated U.S. manufacturing survey kept investors on edge Monday in the run-up to crucial jobs data at the end of the week.

The Institute for Supply Management said its main manufacturing index fell to a four-year low of 49.0 points in May from 50.7 the previous month — anything below 50 indicates a contraction in activity.

Though the report has eased concerns the U.S. Federal Reserve might rein in its monetary stimulus program earlier than expected, it also reignited concerns over the health of the world's largest economy ahead of Friday's nonfarm payrolls data for May.

In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.4 percent at 15,176 but the broader S&P 500 index fell 0.13 percent to 1,628.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.8 percent at 6,525 while Germany's DAX fell 0.7 percent to 8,285. The CAC-40 in France was also 0.7 percent lower at 3,920.

Turkey's main stock market posted the biggest fall amid protests against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Borsa Istanbul 100 Index was down 10.5 percent as investors worried about the destabilizing effect of the demonstrations on the economy.

Though the focus will likely remain on the U.S. this week there's a lot going on in Europe, too, and not just in Turkey. The key scheduled event is the monthly European Central Bank policy meeting and whether it announces new measures to help the ailing eurozone economy.

Figures released Monday suggested the eurozone may be stabilizing somewhat. The monthly manufacturing purchasing managers' index from financial information company Markit rose to 48.3 points in May from the initial estimate of 47.8 — the upward revision takes the index nearer to the 50 threshold between expansion and contraction. The survey helped shore up the euro, which was trading up 0.7 percent at $1.3085.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index plummeted 3.7 percent to close at 13,261.82, as optimism over the country's economic outlook continued to wane — the index has been particularly volatile over the past couple of weeks.

Part of that volatility has been due to the yen's appreciation from lows — the yen is often in demand at times of market turmoil. The higher yen makes the country's exports potentially more expensive and that can depress growth. The yen has spent most of this year on the retreat in the aftermath of the Bank of Japan's big monetary stimulus. The dollar was 1.3 percent lower at 99.23 yen.

Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi fell 0.6 percent to 1,989.57. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.5 percent to 22,282.19 and Shanghai's main index dropped 0.1 percent to 2,406.70 after mixed Chinese economic numbers. Though the official manufacturing PMI rose to 50.8 in May from 50.6 the previous month, an equivalent survey from HSBC fell to 49.2 from 50.4.

"So technically China exhibited growth and contraction at the same time," said Gary Jenkins, managing director of Swordfish Research. "You pays your money and you takes your choice."

Oil prices were higher later Monday, with the benchmark New York rate up 1.60 cents at $93.55 a barrel.