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Soft Start Tipped For Asian Markets On Friday

The Asian stock markets are expected to open lower on Friday, continuing to react to soft economic data from around the world.

China's manufacturing sector shrank for a fifth consecutive month in March, Markit Economics said on Thursday. The headline flash HSBC/Markit manufacturing purchasing managers' index fell to a four-month low of 48.1 in March from 49.6 in February.

Adding to the negative sentiment, Eurozone private sector activity fell more sharply than expected in March. Markit Economics said that its composite output index for the Eurozone fell to a three-month low of 48.7 from 49.3 in February.

On the other hand, the U.S. Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims fell to a four-year low of 348,000 from the previous week's revised 353,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge up to 352,000 from the 351,000 originally reported for the previous week.

The major U.S. averages ended firmly in the red on Thursday. The Dow fell 78.48 points or 0.6 percent to finish at 13,046.14, while the NASDAQ slipped 12.00 points or 0.4 percent to end at 3,063.32 and the S&P 500 dropped 10.11 points or 0.7 percent to 1,392.78.

The major European markets also lower on Thursday as the DAX of Germany dropped by 1.27 percent and the CAC 40 of France closed lower by 1.56 percent. The FTSE 100 of the U.K. lost 0.79 percent and the SMI of Switzerland finished down by 0.64 percent.

The Asian markets were a mixed bag on Thursday as Taiwan spiked 0.97 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.22 percent, Indonesia collected 0.13 percent and Malaysia gathered 0.04 percent. Moving lower, Thailand plummeted 1.38 percent, while Singapore's Straits Times shed 0.88 percent, China's Shanghai Composite eased 0.10 percent and South Korea's KOSPI fell 0.05 percent.

The Indonesia stock market will be closed on Friday for the Hindu New Year. It will re-open on Monday.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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