HONG KONG - Asian markets were mixed on Thursday as positive Chinese manufacturing data was tempered by Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke's comments on the US economy.
The euro extended gains against the major currencies after a record take-up of cheap loans from the European Central Bank by cash-strapped lenders, while Japanese exporters benefited from the yen's continued weakening.
Tokyo ended 0.16 per cent, or 15.87 points, lower at 9,707.37 and Sydney lost 1.00 per cent, or 42.9 points, to close at 4,255.6.
In the afternoon Shanghai added 0.10 per cent and Hong Kong lost 0.54 per cent, while Manila advanced 1.27 per cent. Seoul was closed for a public holiday.
Data out of Beijing showed manufacturing activity expanded for the third straight month in February as exports picked up, easing concerns that the world's number two economy was slowing down too quickly.
The official purchasing managers index rose to 51 in February from 50.5 in January, with most sectors showing signs of improvement, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said in a statement.
A reading above 50 indicates industry is expanding.
Markets had been growing increasingly concerned over manufacturing in China, which began shrinking at the end of last year as key export markets, especially the European Union, struggle.
While the upbeat outlook for China provided some confidence, Bernanke's cool assessment of the US economy injected caution into the market.
The Fed chairman told a congressional hearing that flat incomes and still-high unemployment would likely limit growth this year to 2.25 per cent, dampening recent bullishness following a string of positive data.
"Bernanke's comments failed to inspire markets," Melbourne-based Chris Gore, a currency analyst at Go Markets, said in a note, according to Dow Jones Newswires.