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Nikkei down sharply as many markets take holiday

A woman and a child walk in front of the electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Japan, Tuesday, May 1, 2012. Japan's Nikkei 225 fell Tuesday amid a stronger yen and signs of a slowing U.S. economy, while other key Asian stock indexes were closed for a public holiday. A woman and a child walk in front of the electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Japan, Tuesday, May 1, 2012. Japan's Nikkei 225 fell Tuesday amid a stronger yen and signs of a slowing U.S. economy, while other key Asian stock indexes were closed for a public holiday. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
By Pamela Sampson
AP Business Writer / May 1, 2012
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BANGKOK—Japan's Nikkei 225 fell Tuesday amid a stronger yen, but elsewhere markets headed up in holiday-thinned trading amid data showing factory output in China growing moderately.

Many markets in Europe and Asia were closed due to public holidays, although the Nikkei, Britain's FTSE and Wall Street were open for business.

Britain's FTSE rose 0.3 percent to 5,753.60 in early trading. Wall Street appeared headed for a higher opening, with Dow Jones industrial futures 0.1 percent higher at 13,168 and S&P 500 futures rising marginally to 0.1 percent to 1,394.40.

The Nikkei Stock Average in Tokyo slid 1.8 percent to close at 9,350.95. Export shares were punished by the higher yen, which makes Japanese products more expensive overseas. Yamaha Motor Corp. plunged 6.9 percent. Copier maker Ricoh Co. lost 5.7 percent. Nintendo Co. shed 5 percent.

Sharp Corp. plummeted 9.3 percent after announcing Friday it posted its largest-ever group net loss in fiscal 2011 ended March, Kyodo News agency reported.

Elsewhere, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.8 percent to 4,429.50, after the Reserve Bank of Australia cut its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point to 3.75 percent in a move aimed at stimulating the economy.

Benchmarks in New Zealand and Indonesia also rose. Markets in China, South Korea, India, Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia were among those closed for public holidays.

Separately, data showed Chinese manufacturing expanded moderately in April, but below expectations.

The state-affiliated China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said Tuesday that its purchasing managers index, or PMI, rose to 53.3 in April, up from March's 53.1 and February's 51.0. A reading above 50 signifies expansion.

Although analysts had expected to see an improvement to 53.6, it was the fifth-straight monthly gain and the highest level in a year, said Dariusz Kowalczyk, senior economist at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong.

"The message is that Chinese manufacturing is growing," he wrote in a report. "The risk of hard landing remains manageable and became a bit more remote. This should be positive for sentiment in Asia and globally."

Meanwhile, renewed worries about Europe's finances continued to cloud prospects for a global economic recovery.

The Spanish government said Monday that its economy shrank in the first three months of 2011, putting one of the largest economies in Europe into a recession.

Traders are worried that Spain won't be able to cut its budget deficit and may need a bailout. The eurozone's fourth-largest economy may have much more debt than the continent's bailout funds could handle.

The dollar fell to 79.77 yen from 79.81 yen late Monday in New York. The euro rose to $1.3271 from $1.3243.

Benchmark oil for June delivery rose 3 cents to $104.91 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 6 cents to end at $104.87 per barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.

Looking ahead, traders are awaiting U.S. monthly jobs figures for April, to be released Friday, and the second round of France's presidential election on Sunday.

Polls suggest the election will be won by Socialist contender Francois Hollande, who wants to renegotiate a European treaty intended to limit excessive government spending to emphasize growth over austerity. Some investors fear Hollande could upset France's delicate cooperation with Germany, which has been critical to Europe's efforts to resolve its financial crisis.

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