Asia stocks fall as China manufacturing slows

August 1, 2012 - 12:37 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets fell Wednesday after four days of gains as China's manufacturing slowed despite government stimulus efforts.

Global markets have been buoyant since last Thursday on hopes that policymakers will back powerful new measures to battle Europe's debt crisis after European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi vowed to do what it takes to keep the euro currency union intact.

But sentiment in Asia took a hit after an expected improvement in China's manufacturing failed to materialize. Doubts have also grown about whether the ECB's bold talk will translate into definitive action. As so often before in the debt crisis, the risk is that Europe's leaders overpromise and under-deliver.

The ECB meets Thursday. The U.S. Federal Reserve finishes a two-day meeting Wednesday. Hopes it will announce new stimulus for the world's No. 1 economy have waxed and waned.

China's manufacturing remained weak in July, according to surveys released Wednesday, and analysts said weakening export demand pointed to the need for more efforts to revive growth in the world's second-biggest economy.

The state-affiliated China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said its purchasing managers' index, or PMI, fell 0.1 percentage point to 50.1 in July, the slowest growth in eight months and just above the 50 level signifying expansion.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was down 1 percent at 8,612.69 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.1 percent to 19,781.71. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.2 percent to 4,260. South Korea's Kospi shed 0.3 percent to 1,875.71.

U.S. stocks ended slightly lower Tuesday as investors held back ahead of three critical events this week: the Fed and ECB policy meetings and a closely watched report on jobs in the U.S.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 64.33 points to close at 13,008.68. The Standard & Poor's 500 edged down 5.98 points to 1,379.32, and the Nasdaq composite lost 6.32 points to 2,939.52.

In energy trading, benchmark crude for September delivery was down 23 cents at $87.83 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude lost $1.72 to settle at $88.06 in New York on Tuesday.

The euro was little changed at $1.229. The dollar fell 0.2 percent to 78.02 yen.