Asia markets mixed as data points to slow recovery

BANGKOK: Asian stock markets were mixed Wednesday as economic surveys from the U.S., Japan and China showed that recovery is going to be a long slog. European markets gained in early trading.

In Japan, the central bank's "tankan" survey reflected a slight uptick in gloomy corporate sentiment. But the results were worse than expected and also showed that companies plan to cut capital investment, highlighting the challenges the world's second-biggest economy faces as it climbs out of its steepest recession ever.

Chinese manufacturing expanded slightly in June, two surveys showed, a sign that the world's third-largest economy is slowly rebounding from the collapse in global trade, even though few new jobs were created.

An overnight drop on Wall Street, where stocks were dragged down by an unexpected drop in U.S. consumer confidence, also weighed on sentiment. Many investors are counting on Thursday's release of U.S. jobs data for signals on whether recovery hopes are justified after a three-month rally in global markets.

"We'll tread water for awhile. It depends on the numbers coming out of the largest economy in the world," said Lucinda Chan, a director at Macquarie Private Wealth in Sydney.

Investors will also be watching results — and forecasts — from companies as they start to announce second-quarter earnings this month.

After climbing as much as 1 percent, Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 18.51 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 9,939.93. Australia's S&P/ASX200 index sagged 2.1 percent to 3,874. Hong Kong's market was closed for a public holiday.

Among gainers, South Korea's Kospi rose 1.6 percent to 1,411.66. Taiwan's benchmark jumped 2.3 percent to 6,578.97, a day after the island's government announced it had opened key parts of the manufacturing and services sectors to Chinese investment.

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite index rose 1.7 percent to 3,008.15, its first close above the symbolic 3,000 level since June 12, 2008.

European markets rose in early trading. Britain's FTSE was up 1.4 percent to 4,309.37, while Germany's DAX rose 1.6 percent to 4,885.64. France's CAC 40 advanced 1.8 percent to 3,196.36.

U.S. stock index futures were higher, suggesting Wall Street would rebound Wednesday. Dow Jones industrial futures were up 45 points, or 0.5 percent, at 8,439, while S&P 500 futures were up 6 points, or 0.7 percent, at 921.50.

Investors in China were heartened that brokerage CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets said its purchasing managers index rose to 51.8 from May's 51.2. Numbers above 50 show activity expanding. The state-sanctioned China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said its own PMI edged up slightly to 53.2 from May's 53.1.

In Japan, business executives are only slightly less pessimistic than they were three months ago. The Bank of Japan's quarterly tankan survey showed that the sentiment index at major manufacturers rose to minus 48 from minus 58 in March. The figure represents the percentage of companies saying business conditions are good minus those saying they are bad.

Wall Street fell Tuesday amid disappointment about a decline in consumer confidence following big jumps in April and May, as measured by a private group called the Conference Board. The Dow fell 82.38, or 1 percent, to 8,447.00, while the S&P 500 index fell 7.91, or 0.9 percent, to 919.32. The Nasdaq composite index fell 9.02, or 0.5 percent, to 1,835.04.

Oil rose above $71 a barrel as a drop in U.S. crude inventories suggested demand may be picking up. Benchmark crude for August delivery rose $1.21 to $71.09 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 96.78 yen from 96.34, while the euro rose to $1.4065.