BANGKOK Asian stock markets fell Wednesday in holiday-thinned trading after the pace of China's manufacturing growth slowed in April, raising fears of a weaker recovery in the world's second-largest economy. Shares in other regions were poised to post gains, however.
The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said its purchasing managers' index fell to 50.6 in April from 50.9 in March on a 100-point scale on which readings above 50 indicate an expansion.
The industry group quoted its economist Zhang Lijun as saying that steadily declining export orders and other indicators portend a slight decline in economic growth.
Analysts said the data slightly undershot expectations. Most had been expecting a reading of 50.7.
"Although conditions in Asia's industrial sector have improved, they still remain weak by historic standards," said Daniel Martin of Capital Economics in Singapore.
Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent to 6,444.80. Wall Street looked set for a slightly higher open, with Dow Jones industrial futures rising less than 0.1 percent to 13,783. S&P 500 futures were marginally higher at 1.592.50. The Federal Reserve ends a two-day policy meeting later Wednesday and is widely expected to adhere to its program of super-low interest rates and bond buying.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.4 percent to close at 13,799.35 as the yen gained strength against the dollar. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.5 percent to 5,166.20 as investors took profits off the table after the market hit a five-year high Tuesday. New Zealand's benchmark fell while Indonesia rose.
Many stock markets were closed for May Day holidays, including those in Germany, France, Hong Kong, mainland China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.
Among individual stocks, Japan's Sharp Corp. fell 5 percent. Kyodo News agency reported that the struggling electronics maker was likely to report a larger-than-expected net loss for fiscal 2012 on May 14. Australia's OZ Minerals fell 4 percent.
U.S. stocks finished modestly higher Tuesday, giving the S&P 500 another record close and its sixth straight month of gains.
Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 63 cents to $92.83 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.04 to finish at $93.46 per barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3170 from $1.3158 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell to 97.44 yen from 97.51 yen.