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Market Update

Asian Markets Mostly Lower

Asian markets were still mostly lower even as investors shrugged off data showing a slowdown in manufacturing activity in February.

The Nikkei fell 1.8%. The Shanghai Composite was up 0.8% while the Hang Seng gave up 0.7%. The Sensex was off 0.2% while the All Ordinaries declined 0.5%.

A final reading of HSBC's manufacturing PMI dropped to 48.5% from January’s final reading of 49.5. The reading was still better than a previous "flash" version print of 48.3.

HSBC said the sub-index for output and new orders both contracted for the first time since July 2013. The official PMI released Saturday last week stood at 50.2.

The markets improved after the results as mainland Chinese markets swung to a gain while the Hang Seng trimmed its losses from 0.9% to 0.7%.

In addition, the official services PMI posted a healthy rise with a reading of 55.0 in February from 53.4 in January.

In Tokyo, data showed capital spending by Japanese companies rose less-than-expected in the last quarter to an annual rate of 4% as against expectations for a 5.1% increase.

Official data showed in Australia that operating profits of companies there fell more-than-expected in the last quarter to a seasonally adjusted 1.7% from 4.3%.

On the global front, escalating political tensions pressured markets as Ukraine mobilized for war on Sunday and Washington threatened to isolate Russia economically.

Stocks on the Move

A stronger yen pressured exporters in Tokyo with industrials such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries down almost 3% and 2.2% each, respectively. Index heavyweight Fanuc dropped 2.8%.

Sony was also 2.5% lower while NEC Corp. dropped over 4%.

Some utilities gained early after a broker upgrade for a number of companies. Tohoku Electric was up a percent but most others traded lower.

Astellas Pharma fell 5.4% ahead of a 5-for-1 stock split.

Sun Hung Kai Properties retreated 2.6% in Hong Kong after reporting a drop in first-half net profit.

Other real estate shares were also lower.

Hutchison Whampoa gained 1.4% with its shares boosted by a 20% gain in 2013 net profit.

However, China Eastern Airlines fell 1.8% after it said it would buy 70 Airbus jets.

Mumbai markets, the last to open in the Asian region, traded lower in early moves after weak cues from the other bourses.

Auto stocks are in focus after sales data released last week Saturday. Maruti Suzuki, M&M, and Tata Motors sales’ declined in February, the companies said. The top loser on the Sensex is L&T, down 1.8%, followed by Tata Motors, down 1.7%.

SSLT fell 1.6% while Bajaj Auto gave up 1.4%. However, Maruti Suzuki was up half a percent.

Miners were lower in Sydney after the Chinese manufacturing data and BHP Billiton sank 1.2% in Sydney. Its shares also traded without rights to the latest dividend.

Rio Tinto was down 1.4% while Fortescue Metals dropped 1.2%. Alumina weakened almost 4%.

Retailer Woolworths was down 1.4% after a broker downgrade.