Asian shares hit by Wall St fall, China PMI in focus

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares sagged on Thursday after a retreat on Wall Street and falling crude oil prices revived investor concerns over slowing global growth, as markets nervously waited for Chinese and European manufacturing reports later in the day.

Japan's Nikkei share average fell 0.8 per cent while MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 0.27 per cent.

Bucking the trend, Singapore stocks opened higher with the Straits Times Index up 20.86 points or 0.65 per cent at 3,223.60 after 15 minutes of trade.

"I think it will take some time before markets calm down. Market sentiment is still fragile. The market has realised that the U.S. economy cannot be decoupled from sluggishness in the rest of the world," said Tsuyoshi Shimizu, chief strategist at Mizuho Asset Management. "But on the other hand, I think the market is now going to the other extreme in betting on recoupling of the U.S. and the rest of the world," he added.

Wall Street shares slid on Wednesday after big gains in the past few days.

Energy companies were hit by a fall in oil prices while earning results from companies such as Boeing and Biogen Idec failed to meet investors' lofty expectations.

In addition, a shooting incident at the Canadian parliament in Ottawa unnerved investors.

Oil prices flirted near multi-year lows hit last week, as data showed a second consecutive weekly jump in U.S. crude stockpiles.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said crude stocks rose by 7.11 million barrels, more than double the 2.7 million barrel increase analysts had expected.

U.S. crude futures slipped in Asia, extending its 2.8 per cent fall on Wednesday to trade at US$80.46 per barrel, near two-year low of US$79.78 hit last week.

The fall in oil prices underscored worries over the health of the global economy as a recession threatens Europe and data this week showed Chinese economic growth slowed to its weakest level since 2009.

A string of manufacturing data from China and Europe due later in the day will give investors another chance to gauge the pulse of the world economy.