April 1, 2013 / 8:51 PM / in 5 years

GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares fall on unexpectedly weak U.S. data; Brent gains

* U.S. manufacturing expands, but more slowly than expected

* Chinese factory activity shows improvement

* Euro rebounds after U.S. manufacturing data release

* Most European markets closed for Easter Monday

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK, April 1 (Reuters) - U.S. equities traded lower and oil prices were mixed on Monday after surveys showed U.S. and Chinese manufacturing in March expanded less than economists had expected.

Major European markets were closed for Easter Monday while several exchanges were shut in Asia, reducing trading activity.

The drop in U.S. stocks comes after the S&P 500 closed at a record high on Thursday. The S&P 500 rose 10 percent from January through March, its strongest quarter in a year. The Dow gained 11.3 percent and the Nasdaq 8.2 percent during the span.

The pace of growth in U.S. manufacturing unexpectedly slowed last month, the Institute for Supply Management said. ISM said its index of national factory activity fell to 51.3 from 54.2 in February. The reading was shy of expectations, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

China’s official purchasing managers index for March came in at 50.9, the highest in 11 months, although a Reuters poll showed economists had expected a rise to 52.0 from February’s five-month low of 50.1.

U.S. Treasuries rebounded after the ISM report on U.S. manufacturing, gold prices traded near break-even and the euro extended gains versus the U.S. dollar.

“The weaker-than-expected ISM manufacturing report was really the big bullish trigger for today’s session,” said Ian Lyngen, a senior government bond strategist at CRT Capital Group in Stamford, Connecticut.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 4/32 in price to yield 1.8383 percent.

Early gains in bullion faded after the ISM report and as investors waited for the Labor Department’s snapshot of the U.S. job market on Friday.

Economists expect U.S. nonfarm payrolls to increase 200,000 in March after February’s impressive 236,000 gain..

U.S. gold futures for June delivery settled up $5.20 at $1,600 an ounce.

“I‘m not expecting much to happen in markets before the payroll report, but with things that quiet, we could be more vulnerable to any surprise external news,” said Dan Veru, chief investment officer at Palisade Capital Management LLC in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 5.69 points, or 0.04 percent, at 14,572.85. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 7.02 points, or 0.45 percent, at 1,562.17. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 28.35 points, or 0.87 percent, at 3,239.17.

MSCI’s all-country world equity index fell 0.44 percent to 358.47.

New orders rose sharply in China, suggesting the underlying economic recovery is strong enough to weather any risks from patchy export performance.

In oil markets, Brent crude fell after the Chinese manufacturing data and stayed down after the release of the U.S. survey on American factory activity, but later rebounded.

“China’s still growing, and that continues to be an underlying support factor long term for the market. Whether they are at 6 percent or 7 percent, they are growing,” said Carl Larry, president of Houston-based Oil Outlooks and Opinion, about Chinese manufacturing.

Brent for May delivery rose $1.06 to settle at $111.08 a barrel, while U.S. light sweet crude oil settled down 16 cents at $97.07 a barrel.

The euro was up 0.28 percent at $1.2848.

Europe’s common currency is down 2.6 percent so far this year and has slid steadily since February, when it hit a 14-month high of $1.3711.

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