Nikkei ends flat on positive economic data

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Japanese shares Image copyright AFP
Image caption Japanese shares were down in early trade despite positive economic data

Asian markets were mixed despite a slew of economic data from Japan which indicated that the world's third largest economy was picking up.

Japan's core inflation picked up for the first time in 10 months in March, giving relief to the central bank which has been trying to beat deflation.

Core inflation, which excludes fresh food prices, rose 2.2% from a year ago, the first increase since May 2014.

The Nikkei index closed up 11.62 points at 19,531.63.

Other data showed that the country's unemployment rate fell to 3.4% in March from 3.5% in February.

Household spending rose 2.4% in March from the month before, but compared with a year earlier it was down by nearly 11%.

A manufacturing survey suggested that factory activity contracted in April for the first time in almost a year as domestic orders and output fell.

The Markit/JMMA final Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to a seasonally adjusted 49.9 in April, compared with a preliminary reading of 49.7 and 50.3 in March.

The index fell below the 50 threshold that separates contraction from expansion for the first time since May last year.

Japan emerged from a recession in the fourth quarter of last year, but grew at a slower-than-expected pace.

The country's markets will now be closed until 6 May for Golden Week holidays.

Rest of Asia

Trading in the rest of Asian markets was thinner than usual with Hong Kong, Shanghai and South Korean markets closed for Labour Day holidays.

Investors seemed to ignore manufacturing data from China that showed factory activity in the Asian giant steadied in April.

The official PMI was at 50.1 in April, the same level as in March and above expectations of a reading of 50.

Factory activity had contracted in the first two months of the year.

In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 closed up 0.4% at 5,814.4.

Figures from property consultant CoreLogic RP Data showed home prices across Australia's capital cities rose further in April, climbing by 0.8% after a 1.4% increase in March.

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