Purchasing managers' indexes from a business magazine and a trade group added to signs China's economic downturn is bottoming out. But investors were disappointed the data weren't better. "Softer than expected, manufacturing PMI out of China sets the region up for decline," said Jingyi Pan of IG in a report.
Wall Street's benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index moved further into record territory on Monday after Commerce Department data indicated the U.S. economy is growing but not too fast. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.5% to 29,748.76 and Seoul's Kospi declined 0.4% to 2,207.12.
The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.4% at 3,075.74 while Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 shed 0.4% to 6,331.20. India's Sensex gave up 0.7% to 38,789.70. Singapore declined while New Zealand, Taiwan and other Southeast Asian markets advanced.
In China, Caixin magazine's purchasing managers' index showed factory activity fell to 50.2 on a 100-point scale from March's 50.8. A separate index by the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing declined 0.4 points to 50.1, just above the 50-point line that indicates activity is accelerating.
That suggests some of March's improvement was due to the rebound from the Lunar New Year holiday, when factories close for up to two weeks, said Bill Adams of PNC Financial Services Group. But he noted it was the second-strongest reading since October.
"The worst of China's slowdown in late 2018 and early 2019 is over," said Adams in a report. The S&P 500 edged up 0.1% on Monday to 2,943.03. Big gains for banks led the way on hopes for bigger profits from making loans, but losses for high dividend stocks held indexes in check.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose less than 0.1% to 26,554.39. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.2% to 8,161.85. Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed at record highs. A Commerce Department report showed the economy is growing but not too fast.
Consumer spending jumped 0.9% in March, the biggest gain in nearly a decade. But the same report also showed that the Federal Reserve's preferred measure of price changes remains well below its target.
Low inflation gives the central bank more leeway to hold off on raising interest rates. It was the Fed's pledge earlier this year to be patient on rates that sent stocks surging. The Federal Reserve will meet again on interest rates this week, and most investors expect it to make no changes.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 7 cents to $63.43 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 20 cents on Monday to close at $63.50 per barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 20 cents to $71.34 per barrel in London. The contract rose 11 cents the previous session to $71.54.
CURRENCY: The dollar edged down to 111.56 yen from Monday's 111.65 yen. The euro was little changed at $1.1187.