Asian stock markets lifted by China manufacturing data

HONG KONG (AFP) - Asian markets mostly climbed on Thursday after data showed manufacturing activity in the world's No. 2 economy picked up strongly this month, while Tokyo was lifted by renewed weakness in the yen.

Traders are also keeping an eye on developments in Europe, where officials in Cyprus will present later in the day a revised fund-raising plan to help it access crucial bailout cash.

Wall Street provided a positive lead after the US Federal Reserve kept its huge stimulus measures in place and said the economy has shown signs of picking up.

Tokyo climbed 1.2 per cent by the break, Seoul added 0.3 per cent, Hong Kong was up 0.33 per cent and Shanghai climbed 0.1 per cent, while Sydney was 0.18 per cent lower.

Confidence was given a boost after HSBC bank released preliminary figures showing a healthy rise in China's manufacturing sector.

HSBC's China purchasing managers index rose to 51.7 this month, compared with 50.4 last month. A reading above 50 indicates expansion and anything below points to contraction.

The latest figures break a recent spell of worrying results from trade to inflation that have raised concerns about the Chinese economy, which saw its weakest growth in 13 years last year.

"This implies that the Chinese economy is still on track for gradual growth recovery," HSBC economist Qu Hongbin said in a statement.