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Market Update

Asia Adds But China Drags After Data

Asian markets were mostly higher Friday led by Australian stocks but Chinese shares dragged after reports provided differing views about manufacturing activity in the country.

The Shanghai Composite was trading flat at the time of writing while the Hang Seng was down 0.4%.

Official data released on Friday said China's manufacturing PMI fell to 50.40 in January from 50.60 in December. Though the reading was above the crucial mark of 50 that separates expansion from contraction in the economy, analysts were expecting the reading to come in higher at 50.90.

Offering a conflicting view, a survey report from HSBC showed expansion in manufacturing activity. The HSBC purchasing managers' index rose to 52.3 in January from 51.5 in December.

Among other indexes, the Nikkei was up 0.4%, the Sensex gained 0.3% while the S&P/ASX All Ordinaries rose 0.8%.

In other economic news, Australian producer price inflation increased a less-than-expected seasonally adjusted 0.2% in the previous quarter from 0.6% earlier.

Separate reports published in Japan showed the country's unemployment rate rose unexpectedly last month while household spending declined more than anticipated.

Stocks on the move

Gains in Tokyo came despite lacklustre data as the yen grewer weaker against the dollar, raising the earnings outlook of exporters, and amid some upbeat earnings.

The yen dropped 0.4% against the greenback and was trading around 92.08 per dollar at the time of writing.

Among the those benefitting from the yen's weakness were car manufacturers, Toyota Motor up 2.6% and Mazda Motor up 3%.

Sharp Corp. jumped over 4% ahead of its earnings release after the bell today.

Softbank Corp. surged 6% after posting a twofold increase in quarterly profits while NEC Corp. soared nearly 9% after earnings topped estimates.

Brokerage house Nomura Holdings late Thursday posted more than seven times increase in quarter profits. But its shares were down 2.1% as investors locked in profits.

Also moving lower, Shiseido Co. tumbled over 6% after its third-quarter results missed analyst expectations.

TDK Corp. and Kyocera were down more than 6% and 2% respectively after the firms downgraded their respective outlook for fiscal year profits.

Japan Tobacco moved up 4.1% after upgrading its full-year profit guidance.

In Hong Kong, property developers extended losses. China Overseas Land & Investment dropped 3% while Sino Land Company fell 2.3%.

Resources were also weak -- Angang Steel erased 1.9% while Aluminum Corp. of China gave up 1.3%.

Among financials, index heavyweight HSBC Holdings slipped 0.6% while Hang Seng Bank eased 0.2%.

Globally-tied firms were modestly lower too -- Esprit Holdings, Li & Fung Ltd. and Cosco Pacific Ltd. were all down around 2.5% each.

Among gainers in Mumbai, Bajaj Auto topped the chart, up nearly 2%, followed by Cipla, Tata Steel, Maruti Suzuki and Coal India, up in the range 1% to 1.5%.

On the flipside, Bharti Airtel lost more than 2% ahead of its quarterly results later in the day, while Hindustan Unilever and HDFC Bank lost 1.5% and 0.8% respectively.

In Sydney, miners notched up with index leader BHP Billition and fellow rival Rio Tinto adding 1 to 1.5% each. Diversified miner Fortescue Metals Group was up 2.2%.

Among other gainers were some consumer-related stocks -- franchisor Harvey Norman Holdings climbed 3.6%, surf-wear retailer Billabong International added 1.6% and food retailer Goodman Fielder gained 1.5%.