* MSCI Asia ex-Japan falls, Nikkei ends up 0.2 pct
* China official manufacturing PMI, HSBC final PMI pick up
* PMIs from India, Indonesia, Taiwan improve
* Brent weighed by worries storm Sandy to cut fuel demand
* European shares likely rise modestly
By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO, Nov 1 Asian shares fell on Thursday but
losses were curbed as the region's factory activity surveys
mostly improved, with China's official and private sector
manufacturing PMIs confirming a recovery in the growth trend
even if it lacked punch.
European shares were seen rising modestly. Financial
spreadbetters expect London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40
and Frankfurt's DAX to open as much as 0.2
U.S. stock futures were down 0.3 percent, however,
suggesting a weak Wall Street open after ending Wednesday flat
in the wake of a powerful storm that caused the market's first
weather-related two-day closure since the late 19th century.
China's October official PMI rose to 50.2 in October from
49.8 in September, pointing to expanded factory activity in the
world's second-largest economy. The final reading of the HSBC
PMI hit an 8-month high of 49.5.
Manufacturing growth from Indonesia, Taiwan and India all
improved, while Australia's contracted for an eighth month in
"Overall sentiment is brightening and Chinese orders are
suggesting a moderate recovery," said Hirokazu Yuihama, a senior
strategist at Daiwa Securities. "But global monetary easing has
strengthened currencies of South Korea and Taiwan, where
interest rates are relatively higher, hurting their export-led
economies and offsetting the general improvement."
The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
fell 0.3 percent. Mild improvement in Chinese
factory activity helped the index trim losses slightly.
A Tokyo-based currency trader said markets may treat the
official PMI data with some scepticism out of suspicion that the
Chinese authorities would not like a bad number to be released
ahead of a once-a-decade leadership transition due to start this
Australian shares slid 1.3 percent as miners and
banks pulled the index into its biggest one-day percentage fall
since late July. Data showing South Korea's manufacturing sector
shrank for a fifth straight month in October, even at a milder
pace, weighed on Seoul shares which slipped 0.7 percent.
But mainland Chinese shares lifted Hong Kong markets with
their best daily performance in about a month, beating Asian
peers, as a report that more city governments were easing
restrictions on the real estate sector helped bolster sentiment.
The Hang Seng Index was up 0.8 percent and Shanghai
shares jumped 1.7 percent.
"Any signs of policy moderation in an important sector like
property is always going to help. The better PMI today is also a
factor, it gives investors confidence that the economy is
recovering," said Cao Xuefeng, head of research at Huaxi
Securities in Chengdu.
Japan's Nikkei average closed up 0.2 percent as some
earnings were not as bad as feared.
CURRENCIES LACK DIRECTION
The dollar gained 0.4 percent against the yen to 80.13
, approaching a four-month high of 80.38 hit last week.
The euro was pinned in the recent $1.28-$1.32 range, trading
steady at $1.2960. The China-sensitive Australian dollar
steadied around $1.0366.
Major currencies have been confined to recent ranges due to
uncertainty over bailouts for Greece and Spain, the tight U.S.
presidential election on Nov. 6 and the potential for the United
States to run over a "fiscal cliff" early next year unless
Congress acts to avert looming tax hikes and cuts to public
The U.S. ISM index of national manufacturing conditions in
October, due to be released later on Tursday, is expected to
hold above 50 for a second straight month
Employment numbers due on Friday are expected to show U.S.
employers added 125,000 jobs in October and the jobless rate
likely ticked up to 7.9 percent from September's 7.8 percent.
Any improvement in the U.S. economy could scale back
expectations for further easing, putting upward pressure on U.S.
yields and boosting the dollar.
Euro zone finance ministers held a teleconference on
Wednesday without any breakthrough on Greece, which served
notice that it will overshoot its deficit and debt targets again
next year because of a deeper-than-forecast recession.
Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said he expected a
deal at the finance ministers' face-to-face meeting on Nov. 12
provided Greece had completed a list of prior actions.
Brent edged down toward $108 a barrel as investors
focused on concerns that storm Sandy's rampage across the U.S.
East Coast could reduce fuel demand and shrugged off the
positive China data. U.S. crude was up 0.2 percent at
"A lot of attention is dedicated to the United States after
Sandy came through," said Natalie Rampono, a commodity
strategist at ANZ.
Asian credit markets were subdued, with the spread on the
iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index barely
changed from Wednesday.