HONG KONG: Most Asian stock markets recovered some equilibrium Monday but Tokyo slumped 3.22 per cent on profit-taking and a stronger yen while comments by President Xi Jinping fuelled concerns about the slowing Chinese economy.

The Nikkei 225 index lost 469.80 points to 14,142.65 following a rollercoaster session last week that saw the benchmark index plunge more than seven per cent on Thursday.

“Investors' profit-taking movement is continuing as markets in New York and London are closed today, and they might want to watch the currency market,” Masahiro Yamaguchi, analyst at Mizuho Securities, told AFP.

Japanese stocks were going through an adjustment period, Yamaguchi said, adding that “this is part of reaction to gains in recent weeks in the Tokyo market”.

The Nikkei had been making steady gains until Thursday when the benchmark index plummeted 7.3 per cent after disappointing data out of China stoked fears about the world's second-largest economy, a major trade partner with Japan.

“Quite a bit of hot air has been vented, which is healthy for the market, but investors are still shaken by the sudden volatility and are not rushing back to buy today,” said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities.

Seoul closed 0.33 per cent higher at 1,979.97 points while Sydney dropped 0.47 per cent to end at 4,959.9.

Hong Kong added 0.30 per cent to 22,686.05 while Shanghai rose 0.20 per cent to close at 2,293.08, but gains were capped by concerns over the domestic economy.

“The market may struggle due to recent downbeat economic data,” said Dongxing Securities investment adviser Sun Zheng.

Uncertainty over when the US Federal Reserve will taper off its asset purchases has also hit stocks after differing interpretations of comments by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke last week.

Asian markets got little direction from US stocks, which closed flat Friday in cautious trade ahead of the three-day US Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 0.06 per cent at 15,303.10.

The broad-based S&P 500 was down 0.06 per cent at 1,649.60 while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.01 per cent to 3,459.14.

Comments Friday by Chinese President Xi that his country would not sacrifice the environment for temporary economic growth added to concerns about the weakness of China's recovery following weak manufacturing data.

Figures from HSBC's preliminary purchasing managers' index (PMI) for China released Thursday fell to a seven-month low of 49.6 in May, putting it below the 50 mark and indicating contraction.

Xi's comments on possible slower growth in the world's top energy consumer also hit oil prices in Asian trade Monday.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate light sweet crude for delivery in July, dropped 54 cents to $93.61 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for July delivery shed 19 cents to $102.45.

“The crude market has reacted negatively to comments from the Chinese government that it will tolerate a slower rate of economic growth,” Victor Shum, managing director at IHS Purvin and Gertz in Singapore, told AFP.

“The comments by Xi further deepened concerns about the Chinese economy after the poor manufacturing data last week,” Shum added.

On forex markets, the yen added to its gains in Asia Monday but dealers said the Japanese unit's decline was still on track.

The dollar fetched 101.04 yen in Tokyo trade, down from 101.14 yen in New York Friday and 102.33 yen in Tokyo on Friday morning.

The euro also weakened against the Japanese currency at 130.60 yen from 130.82 yen on Friday, while it bought $1.2926 from $1.2936.

Gold was at $1,393.40 at 0835 GMT Monday from $1,386.10 late Friday.

In other markets:

  • Manila fell 171.40 points, or 2.36 per cent, to 7097.51. Top-traded Alliance Global Group Inc. fell 3.95 per cent to 25.50 pesos while Bank of the Philippine Islands slipped 0.59 per cent to 101 pesos.

  • Taipei gained 70.32 points, or 0.86 per cent, to 8,280.10.

  • Wellington fell 48.04 points, or 1.06 per cent, to 4,478.20. Telecom Corp. was down 0.43 per cent at NZ$2.29 while Fletcher Building was 1.19 per cent lower at NZ$8.28.

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