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Asia stocks hit by weak China manufacturing

BEIJING - Weak Chinese manufacturing weighed on Asian stocks Monday but European markets mostly rose, shrugging off a 22 percent plunge in the Athens benchmark which reopened after a five-week shutdown.

In early European trading, Germany's DAX rose 0.5 percent to 11,364.50 and France's CAC 40 gained 0.3 percent to 5,099.79. Britain's FTSE 100 was little changed at 6,694.02. Stocks in Athens plunged more than 22 percent as the market reopened from a shutdown brought on by the near collapse of the country's financial system during its high-wire bailout negotiations. Futures pointed to a tepid start on Wall Street: Both Dow and S&P futures were flat.

Two surveys showed Chinese manufacturing weakened in July. The Caixin purchasing managers' index, previously sponsored by HSBC, declined to a two-year low of 47.7 from June's 49.4 on a 100-point scale. Numbers below 50 indicate activity contracting. A separate index by a Chinese industry group, the Federation of Logistics & Purchasing, and the government statistics bureau declined to 50 from June's 50.2. The bigger decline in the Caixin index suggests weakness was concentrated in private and smaller companies, which make up a bigger share of the group surveyed for that report.

The Shanghai Composite Index dropped 1.1 percent to 3,622.91 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.9 percent to 24,411.42. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 shed 0.2 percent to 20,548.11 and Seoul's Kospi declined 1.1 percent to 2,008.41. Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.4 percent to 5,679.30. Taiwan, Singapore and Jakarta also declined.

"China will have several hard questions asked of it over the week, feeding into the concern it's facing a hard landing," said IG market strategist Evan Lucas in a report.

Investors were looking ahead to surveys of manufacturing and consumer spending due out Monday, factory orders Tuesday and data on employment and payrolls on Friday. The Labor Department reported Friday that U.S. wages and benefits grew at their slowest pace in 33 years in the spring. That suggests companies are able to find workers without boosting pay, which could cause the Federal Reserve hold off any increase in interest rates.

Benchmark U.S. crude shed another 71 cents to $46.41 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract tumbled $1.40 the previous session to close at $47.12. Brent crude, used to price international oils, plunged $1.17 to $51.04 in London after dropping $1.10 to $52.21 the previous day.

The dollar strengthened to 124.19 yen from Friday's 123.91 yen. The euro inched down to $1.0960 from $1.1010.

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