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Market Update

Asian Markets Recover Early Losses; Sydney Drags

Asian markets recovered early losses and ended mostly higher Monday but Australian stocks continued to be weighed down by disappointing Chinese industrial activity data.

Australia's S&P ASX/All Ordinaries fell 1.8% amid concerns of flagging growth in China. Many Australian resources companies are heavily dependent on demand from the world’s second-largest economy.

Among other regional indexes, China's Shanghai Composite  finished up 0.8%, Japan's Nikkei gained 1.3% while Mumbai's Sensex added 1%.

Markets in Hong Kong remained closed for a holiday.

According to official data released in China, the country's purchasing managers' index for June came in at 50.1, in line with expectations, but below the final reading of 50.8 in May.

Meanwhile, the HSBC manufacturing PMI reading fell to 48.2 in June from 49.2 in May, indicating further signs of slowdown in China's industrial sector. A reading below 50 indicates contraction and vice versa.

In contrast, there was some upbeat news from Japan. The Bank of Japan's closely-watched Tankan survey showed sentiment among large manufacturers turned positive in the April-June period for the first time in almost two years.

Stocks on the Move

Overall trading in Tokyo was volatile early in the sesison, but financial stocks were steady gainers. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial rallied 3.1% while brokerage house Daiwa Securities soared 5.2%.

Some exporters also notched higher -- auto firms were among the ones that raced ahead. Mazda Motor Corp. accelerated nearly 5% while Toyota Motor was up around 1.2% following the Tankan report.

In the retail segment, Aeon Co. Ltd. tacked on 2.3% amid buzz the retailing giant would post a record operating profit for the March-May quarter.

J.Front Retailing rallied over 2% whle department store operator Takashimaya added 0.9% after posting strong quarterly operating profit.

Softbank Corp. also pulled back from early lows and finished up 0.5% despite news of a ratings downgrade.

In news, Lixil Group Co. announced Friday it would purchase ASD American Holding Corp. for $542 million. Shares of the Japanese firm closed 1.2%.

In Shanghai, metal players traded under pressure earlier in the session on heels of the dismal manufacturing activity reports. Baoshan Iron & Steel Co. was down % while Aluminum Corp. of China regained lost ground, ending 0.3% higher.

Property stocks also clawed back losses. Gemdale Corp. edged up 0.2% while Poly Real Estate Group enhanced 1%. The broader Shenzhen-listed China Vanke inched up 0.3%.

Among financials, ICBC gained 0.3% while China Construction Bank bounced 3.6% and Agricultural Bank rose 1.6%.

In Mumbai, stocks extended gains as sentiment continued to be positive after the government last week approved a hike in natural gas prices effective 1st April next year.

Top gainers included Maruti Suzuki (+4.4%), Sterlite Industries (3.9%), Gail India (+3.3%), L&T (3.3%) and SBI (3.2%).

On the downside, stocks in Sdyney posted heavy losses amid concerns about economic growth in China (its biggest export destination).

Banks were among the top losers. NAB fell 2.4%, Westpac Banking dropped 3.2% while ANZ tumbled around 3%.

Among resources, leading miner BHP Billiton retreated 1.4% while close rival Rio Tinto also gave up around 1.2. Diversified iron-ore miner Fortescue Metals Group slumped 3%.

Other losers included Seven Group Holdings (-4.4%), Harvey Norman Holdings (-4.7%), Goodman Fielder (-2.8%) and Woolworths (1.9%).