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Asian stocks muted as European markets gain

MANILA/HONG KONG -- Asian stock markets were muted Tuesday with little news to excite investors, but European shares and U.S. futures were mostly higher.

In early European trading, Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.8 percent at 6,571.0 and Germany's DAX rose 0.8 percent at 9,258.50. France's CAC-40 climbed 0.9 percent at 4,314.48.

Futures augured slightly higher opening on Wall Street, with S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent at 1,851.90. Dow Jones industrial futures edged up 0.1 percent to 16,224.

In Asia, markets were mostly down Tuesday as traders booked profits after the previous day's rally, while Wall Street provided another negative lead in response to anemic U.S. and Chinese manufacturing data.

Tokyo slipped 0.36 percent, or 52.11 points, to finish at 14,423.19; Seoul lost 0.22 percent, or 4.30 points, to end at 1,941.25 and Sydney shed 0.19 percent, or 10.3 points, to 5,336.6.

Hong Kong fell 0.51 percent, or 114.13 points, to 21,732.32 but Shanghai closed flat, edging up 1.03 points to 2,067.31.

European and U.S. shares were unable to match Monday's strong performance from stocks in Asia, where traders saw a fall in Chinese manufacturing activity as possibly pressing Beijing into announcing monetary easing measures.

Regional markets surged despite HSBC's preliminary purchasing managers index (PMI) for March contracting further and hitting an eight-month low.

“The general mood is somewhat expectant of stimulus measures coming out of China,” said Dariusz Kowalczyk of Credit Agricole in Hong Kong. “But there's no data in the region of a sort of first tier nature and therefore we are not seeing major market moves.”

Expectations China might announce stimulus spending were boosted Monday by a survey of factory purchasing managers that showed Chinese manufacturing contracted in March.

In the United States, Markit Economics said an early PMI reading slid to 55.5 in March from 57.1 in February.

A figure above 50 points to growth while anything below suggests contraction.

While the data still suggests expansion, investors were spooked as recent disappointing economic numbers had been blamed on severe winter weather at the start of the year.

Earlier, the eurozone composite PMI from Markit Economics came in at 53.2 in March, from 53.3 in February, although traders took heart from a pick-up in output and new orders from France, which had previously been holding back the index.

Gold fetched US$1,313.10 an ounce at 0810 GMT compared with US$1,322.65 late Monday.

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