Stock markets in Asia have fallen amid fresh manufacturing data from China. A key factory activity indicator for the country has hit a six-month low, signaling a loss of momentum in the world's second largest economy.
The MSCI Index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan closed 0.3 percent lower on Thursday, briefly touching a three-week low. The Shanghai Composite Index also lost 0.3 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 0.1 percent.
Weighing on investor sentiment in Asia was the weakest reading since May this year of China's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for the country's all-important manufacturing industry.
The preliminary China PMI for November, compiled by Hong Kong-based HSBC bank, dropped to 50 points from 50.4 points in October. The 50-point threshold divided expansion and contraction, HSBC said in a statement, adding that the reading was the weakest since May's 49.4 points.
HSBC attributed the decline to sluggish growth in new export orders for Chinese factories, which had led to contracting output for the first time in six month.
"Furthermore, we still see uncertainties in the months ahead from the property market and on the export front," HSBC Chief Economist Qu Hongbin said.
Qu also noted that China growth was facing "significant downward pressures" which should be countered by "more monetary and fiscal easing measures."
China's economy - the second largest in the world - expanded 7.3 percent in the third quarter of 2014, lower than the 7.5 percent expansion in the previous three-month period and the slowest growth rate in many years. Beijing's growth target for the whole year is 7.5 percent. But the Communist government has stated that a slightly lower increase is tolerable as long as the jobs market remains resilient.
In an effort to shore up growth, the Chinese authorities in April cut reserve requirements for banks, and provided 500 billion yuan ($81.7 billion, 65.1 billion euros) in central bank funding to facilitate lending to businesses.
uhe/nz (Reuters, AFP, dpa)