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[HONG KONG] Asian markets made cautious gains on Monday after a long holiday weekend, after Wall Street finished last week on a positive note, but with mixed news on the China economic front.
Hong Kong stocks opened up 0.14 per cent, Seoul tracked up 0.38 per cent and Shanghai made marginal gains at the opening bell following official data last week that showed China's manufacturing activity expanded modestly in April.
Sydney was 0.11 per cent weaker as the Australian dollar slipped on expectations of another interest rate cut to combat a recent surge in the unit.
Tokyo was closed for a public holiday, along with financial markets in Thailand and Malaysia.
But Asian bourses took their lead from a rally on US markets on Friday which reversed a bruising two-day retreat following a dismal US economic growth report.
However, China stocks gyrated after an HSBC survey showed manufacturing activity recorded its worst contraction in a year in April, as subdued domestic demand weighed on growth in the world's second-largest economy.
The British bank's final purchasing managers' index (PMI) came in at 48.9, below the breakeven point of 50 and the weakest since 48.1 in the same month last year.
The figure was down from a preliminary reading of 49.2 and marked the second monthly contraction in a row after March's 49.6.
The index tracks activity in China's factories and workshops and is regarded as a barometer of the health of the Asian economic giant.
China's government on Friday had posted its official PMI at 50.1 for last month, unchanged from March when the gauge showed growth for the first time this year.
On Australian markets, attention was on a central bank meeting on Tuesday expected to address a rebound in the currency which is now back up around 80 US cents - problematic as the nation grapples with the decline of a mining boom.
"The recent surge in the Australian dollar would be viewed quite dimly by the folks at the Reserve Bank," Bill Evans, chief economist at Westpac Banking Corp, told Bloomberg News.
Failing to cut rates "in the face of such strong market pricing will affect the bank's credibility over time," he added.
Oil prices were lower. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for June delivery fell 21 cents to US$58.94 while Brent crude for June dipped 13 cents to US$66.33.
Gold fetched US$1,182.97 against $1,181.14 late Friday.