Asian markets mixed China data offset by US worries

Asian markets were mixed on Monday, after data showing Chinese manufacturing activity had picked up pace in November were tempered by concerns over US talks to avert the fiscal cliff.

Tokyo closed 0.13 percent, or 12.17 points, higher at 9,458.18, Seoul ended up 0.37 percent, or 7.12 points, to 1,940.02 and Sydney gained 0.57 percent, or 25.5 points, to 4,531.5.

However, Hong Kong tumbled 1.19 percent, or 262.54 points, to 21,767.85, while Shanghai closed down 1.03 percent, or 20.35 points, at 1,959.77.

Beijing said Saturday that factory activity grew for the second month in a row in November, the latest figures showing the world's number two economy is emerging from its recent slowdown.

The country's official purchasing managers' index (PMI) reached 50.6, up from 50.2 in October and 49.8 in September and the highest since hitting 53.3 in April. Anything above 50 indicates expansion.

In a separate survey, HSBC said its PMI hit a 13-month high of 50.5 in November from 49.5 in October. The bank's PMI had been in negative territory for 12 months.

Chinese manufacturing has been hit by weaker demand in Europe and the United States, with economic growth hitting a more than three-year low of 7.4 percent in the July-September quarter.

A more upbeat outlook for China filtered through to currency markets, where the euro continued its recent rise.

The single currency gained to $1.3035 and 107.29 yen in late afternoon trade, from $1.2982 and 107.07 yen in New York late Friday.

The dollar eased to 82.30 yen from 82.48 yen in US trade.

The yen has weakened over the past few weeks as investors expect a win in December 16 polls for Shinzo Abe, the opposition leader who has pledged to carry out more aggressive monetary easing measures to jumpstart Japan's limp economy.

However, there are worries over the lack of progress US lawmakers are making in agreeing a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts due to come into effect on January 1 and which could tip the economy into recession.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner told the Fox News Sunday TV show that talks were going "nowhere".

He said he was "flabbergasted" when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, President Barack Obama's point man for the talks, presented the White House's proposal, which included huge tax increases for the rich.

"I looked (at) him and said, 'You can't be serious,'" Boehner recounted, saying three of the seven weeks available had "been wasted with this nonsense".

"Right now, I would say -- we're nowhere, period. We're nowhere" towards reaching a compromise.

Oil prices were higher. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in January, gained 10 cents to $89.01 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for January delivery added 19 cents to $111.42.

Gold was at $1,718.77 at 0810 GMT compared with $1,728.37 late Friday.

In other markets

-- Taipei rose 0.26 percent, or 19.74 points, to 7,599.91.

Hon Hai Precision gained 1.61 percent to Tw$94.7 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.81 percent down at Tw$97.9.

-- Manila rose 0.57 percent, or 32.25 points, to 5,672.70.

-- Wellington was flat, falling 1.00 point to 4,049.09.

Broadband provider Chorus slumped 14.4 percent to NZ$2.91 after regulators flagged a cut to wholesale pricing, while Telecom was up 0.43 percent at NZ$2.32.

--

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