Asian markets were mostly down as traders booked profits after the previous day’s rally, while Wall Street provided another negative lead in response to anaemic US and Chinese manufacturing data.
But the euro held on to the gains it made against the dollar after an upbeat survey of European factory activity raised hopes for the eurozone, while the Indian rupee hit a seven-month high.
Tokyo slipped 0.36 per cent, or 52.11 points, to finish at 14,423.19; Seoul lost 0.22 per cent, or 4.30 points, to end at 1,941.25 and Sydney shed 0.19 per cent, or 10.3 points, to 5,336.6.
Hong Kong fell 0.51 per cent, or 114.13 points, to 21,732.32 but Shanghai closed flat, edging up 1.03 points to 2,067.31.
European and US shares were unable to match Monday’s strong performance from stocks in Asia, where traders saw a fall in Chinese manufacturing activity as possibly pressing Beijing into announcing monetary easing measures.
Regional markets surged despite HSBC’s preliminary purchasing managers index (PMI) for March contracting further and hitting an eight-month low.
In the United States, Markit Economics said an early PMI reading slid to 55.5 in March from 57.1 in February.
A figure above 50 points to growth while anything below suggests contraction.
While the data still suggests expansion, investors were spooked as recent disappointing economic numbers had been blamed on severe winter weather at the start of the year.
The Dow ended 0.16 per cent lower, the S&P 500 lost 0.49 per cent and the Nasdaq tumbled 1.20 per cent.
Earlier, the eurozone composite PMI from Markit Economics came in at 53.2 in March, from 53.3 in February, although traders took heart from a pick-up in output and new orders from France, which had previously been holding back the index.
The figures lifted the euro, helping it to $1.3835 in late New York trade from $1.3800 earlier in the day. In Tokyo on Tuesday the single currency fetched $1.3838.
The euro was also at 141.41 yen against 141.48 yen on Wall Street, while the dollar bought 102.18 yen compared with 102.26 yen.
India’s rupee touched 60.51 to the dollar – its highest since August as hopes grew that a stable and business-friendly government will win upcoming elections, boosting foreign fund inflows.
The unit sank as low as 68.85 later in August owing to a fiscal deficit crisis, waning market confidence and expectations the US Federal Reserve would wind down its stimulus that had been credited with an investment boom in emerging markets.
Oil prices edged up. New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate for May delivery rose 15 cents to $US99.75 a barrel in afternoon trade, and Brent North Sea crude for May gained five cents to $106.86.
Gold fetched $US1,313.10 an ounce at 0810 GMT (1910 AEDT) compared with $US1,322.65 late on Monday.
In other markets:
— Taipei rose 0.98 per cent, or 83.92 points, to 8,689.30.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.89 per cent higher at Tw$113.5 while Cathay Financial Holdings added 1.49 per cent to Tw$44.3.
— Wellington advanced 0.24 per cent, or 12.08 points, to 5,130.69.
Telecom eased 0.62 per cent to NZ$2.39 while Contact Energy rose 1.34 per cent to NZ$5.29.
— Manila fell 1.00 per cent, or 64.33 points, to 6,336.34.
BDO Unibank was unchanged at 83.10 pesos while Philippine Long Distance Telephone eased 0.15 per cent to 2,704 pesos.
— Mumbai ended nearly unchanged at 22,055.21 points.
Dish TV India rose 6.24 per cent or 3.05 rupees to 51.95 rupees, and Apollo Tyres gained 5.87 per cent or 8.70 rupees to 156.80 rupees.
— Bangkok added 0.30 per cent or 4.11 points to 1,354.01.
Oil company PTT gained 2.79 per cent to 295.00 baht, while telecoms company True Corporation rose 2.22 per cent to 6.90 baht.
— Jakarta ended down 0.37 per cent, or 17.33 points, at 4,703.09.
Palmoil producer Astra Agro Lestari fell 5.32 per cent to 24,925 rupiah, while food manufacturer Indofood Sukses Makmur lost 0.35 to 7,025 rupiah.
— Singapore closed down 0.25 per cent, or 7.66 points, at 3,104.17.
United Overseas Bank eased 0.53 per cent to Sg$20.76 while oil rig maker Keppel Corp gained 0.47 per cent to Sg$10.66.
— Kuala Lumpur’s main stock index gained 0.18 per cent or 3.32 points to 1,837.17.
Plantation giant Sime Darby added 0.4 per cent to 9.27 ringgit, while Telekom Malaysia rose 2.4 per cent to 6.11. RHB Capital lost 0.1 per cent to 8.29 ringgit.