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Asia: Markets mixed ahead of China anniversary

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[HONG KONG] Asian markets had a mixed start on Monday as Beijing posted manufacturing data that was better than expected, but investors remained cautious ahead of a week-long patriotic holiday in China and after reports last week raised fears of a fresh escalation in its trade war with the US.

China's factory activity is still underperforming but data released by the National Bureau of Statistics showed a month-on-month rise that exceeded forecasts.

The Asian giant celebrates 70 years since the founding of communist China on Tuesday, with markets taking a break from October 1 to 7, and planned protests in Hong Kong threatening to disrupt the festivities.

On Friday, stocks fell into the red after multiple US media reports said President Donald Trump was mulling severe new restrictions on investment in China, as the trade conflict between the world's two biggest economies stretches into its second year.

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Stephen Innes, Asia Pacific market strategist at AxiTrader, said a US Treasury statement released Saturday, which said there were no current plans to stop Chinese companies from listing on US exchanges, had calmed nerves.

"However, the statement didn't exactly clarify the White House position, nor did it rule out other courses of action," he said in a note.

"Unquestionably, floating this story at a time when US-China harmony is most needed suggests the US administration isn't exactly rolling out a red-carpet welcoming party for China's high-level trade negotiators."

The threats appeared intended to ratchet up pressure on Beijing to strike a bargain. Mr Trump has said in recent weeks that China may be holding off on reaching a trade deal, betting that he will not be re-elected next year.

Shanghai was down 0.2 per cent and Hong Kong fell on opening but later recovered, after one of the most violent weekends the semi-autonomous city has seen in a summer of unrest.

Pro-democracy protesters in the financial hub are hoping to disrupt Beijing's celebrations on Tuesday with further mass rallies.

Tokyo slumped by 0.5 per cent, with analysts saying stocks were weighed down by losses in the US market. Sydney and Seoul were up but Jakarta and Singapore also saw declines.

"Asia is refusing to bite on the Trump threats to delist Chinese companies on US exchanges that came out on Friday and saw Wall Street finish in the red," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda.

"In China's case, ahead of the 70th birthday celebrations tomorrow, 'officialdom' is likely to ensure that Mainland indices finish the day flat at worst," he added.

AFP