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Shares mixed on lackluster data from China

TOKYO/HONG KONG--Shares were mixed Wednesday, as weak data from China sapped the upward momentum from an overnight rally on a flurry of deals in the pharmaceutical sector.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares rose 0.04 percent to 6,684.47, while Germany's DAX was 0.02 percent lower at 9,598.73 and France's CAC-40 fell 0.3 percent to 4,470.28.

Wall Street looked set for a sluggish start, with Dow Jones futures up 0.04 percent and S&P futures almost flat.

Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday following another Wall Street rally, while a provisional report showed a slight improvement in Chinese manufacturing activity this month.

Tokyo rose 1.09 percent, or 157.50 points, to 14,546.27 and Sydney added 0.7 percent, or 38.5 points, to 5,517.8. Seoul lost 0.19 percent, or 3.85 points, to end at 2,000.37.

Hong Kong slipped 0.97 percent, or 221.04 points, to 22,509.64 and Shanghai fell 0.26 percent, or 5.45 points, to 2,067.38.

HSBC said its preliminary purchasing managers index (PMI) for China came in at 48.3 in April, up from 48.0 in March.

While the figures point to a continuing contraction in manufacturing activity in the Asian economic giant, the rate has slowed.

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

The result will provide little comfort to traders about the Chinese economy after data last week showed it grew 7.4 percent year-on-year in January-March, more than expected but down from the previous three months.

“Domestic demand showed mild improvement and deflationary pressures eased, but downside risks to growth are still evident as both new export orders and employment contracted,” HSBC economist Qu Hongbin said in a statement, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Eyes are now on the release of early PMI figures for Europe and the United States later in the day after recent figures have pointed to a pick-up in the global economy.

In New York Tuesday the three main indexes enjoyed another positive day following a series of deals between pharmaceutical giants Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly that shuffled more than US$20 billion in assets.

Added to that were solid or strong earnings from Comcast, Lockheed Martin, Netflix, Travelers and Xerox, among others.

The S&P 500 added 0.41 percent and the Nasdaq jumped 0.97 percent, with each index clocking up a sixth successive advance after suffering heavy selling earlier this month.

The Dow climbed 0.40 percent, a third straight gain.

Analysts will be watching Obama's Japan visit for any mention of a planned Pacific-wide trade zone. Negotiations have stumbled in recent weeks over differences between the US and Japan on the auto and agriculture sectors.

Gold fetched US$1,286.71 an ounce at 1050 GMT, compared with US$1,291.73 on Tuesday.

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