BANGKOK (AP) — A slowdown in U. S. factory activity kept gains modest in Asian stock markets Tuesday, while Japan's Nikkei slipped as the yen rose against the dollar.

U. S. manufacturing expanded more slowly in March than February, the Institute for Supply Management said Monday, held back by weaker growth in production and new orders. Still, sentiment remained fairly resilient following the release Monday of reports showing that manufacturing picked up in China and that business sentiment improved in Japan last month.

Analysts said the new government in Japan, with its new plan of attack to right the Japanese economy, has lifted business optimism.

"The economy is improving, albeit slowly, and the mood has been lifted by the assertive and coordinated economic plan of the new government," Moody's Analytics said in a market commentary.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.2 percent to 12,107.40, giving up recent gains that were partly due to the yen's drop in value against other major currencies. A weaker currency makes products sold abroad more expensive, a hardship for Japan's export-dependent economy.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.4 percent to 22,384.26. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.2 percent to 4,975.40. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.1 percent at 1,997.10. Benchmarks in mainland China and Singapore rose while Malaysia, the Philippines and New Zealand fell.

Wall Street stocks got off to a slow start Monday following a three-day holiday. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped less than 0.1 percent to close at 14,572.85. The S&P 500 fell 0.5 percent to close at 1,562.17. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.9 percent to 3,239.17.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was down 17 cents to $96.89 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 16 cents to close at $97.07 a barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2867 from $1.2804 late Monday in New York. The dollar fell to 93.03 yen from 94.22 yen.


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