Japanese stock sank on Friday, the first trading day of April, after data showed the manufacturing PMI in February sliding to 49.1, the worst such reading since February 2013, while an official survey tracking manufacturing sentiment fell to its lowest in three years, compounding the picture for the world's third largest economy.
Japan's Nikkei index plummeted to one-month low at 16,164, down a hefty 3.55% on the day, while China's Shanghai index fared better, falling just 0.68% after manufacturing returned to growth in February in the world's second largest economy. Australian shares skidded 1.64%, touching a month low at one point.
Oil prices gave up ground in response to the mixed picture, with Brent crude futures losing 30 cents, or 0.70% to trade at $40.04 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures shed 36 cents, or 0.94% to hover around $37.89 a barrel.
The dollar was largely flat ahead of later employment data, with the index trading at 94.59, down a tiny 0.06% on the day, while euro inched up 0.03% against the greenback to move around 1.1384. Japan's yen kept up its upward trajectory, advancing 0.31% to trade at 112.22.
Investors wait for the all important U.S. non-farm payrolls report later, expected to showed a healthy growth of 205 thousand new jobs, compared to the previous reading's 242K jobs, but still a positive sign for the world's largest economy.
Average Hourly Wages on the other hand are forecast to have grown 0.2% m/m in February, a good pace of growth after January's 0.1% dip, but the Fed is expected to delay hiking rates at any rate for at least a few months, so the dollar will remain under pressure.