Asian markets traded lower in the morning, as a Japanese corporate sentiments survey showed weaker-than-estimated conditions and China's official manufacturing PMI failed to meet expectations.
The Nikkei average index fell 0.9 percent or 114.96 points to 12283.9 while South Korea's benchmark KOSPI was down 0.4 percent or 8.38 points to 1,996.4. China's Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.2 percent or 3.92 points to 2,231.5. Australian and Hong Kong stock exchanges continue to remain shut for holidays.
Markets opened on a subdued note during the day, lacking cues as the US and European markets remained closed on account of Easter holidays. Eurozone concerns, which had plagued investor sentiments in the recent days, appeared to take a back seat after Cyprus managed to get a bailout and its banks opened without much trouble. Nevertheless, market players are expected to keep a close watch on Italian political developments.
Japanese market sentiments dipped after Bank of japan's key economic indicator, Tankan Survey, showed that confidence among major Japanese firms remained less-than-expected. The quarterly index picked up to -8 in March from -12 in December, below the expectations of a -7 reading.
The weak indicator underscored the weakness of the economy and the challenges before the government to boost growth. Investors are now awaiting BoJ's policy meet scheduled for 3 and 4 April, in anticipation of aggressive monetary easing measures from the newly elected governor.
In China, official purchasing managers index (PMI) showed that the country's manufacturing sector improved less-than-expected in March. The index picked up to 50.9 during the month from the 50.1 recorded in February, sharply below the 52.0 reading estimated by a Reuters poll.
HSBC's China manufacturing PMI figures were also released during the day. The index picked up to 51.6 in March from the 50.4 recorded in February, but this was slightly below the 51.7 recorded in the preliminary reading.
Meanwhile, Chinese property sector returned to spotlight after the government, over the weekend, announced fresh curbs aimed at controlling the rising prices. Measures include hike in down payments and purchase limit for single individuals.
Separately, the country's biggest real estate website SouFun said that property prices gained the most in two years in March as buyers looked to make purchases before the government curbs kick in.
Railways stocks traded lower in Tokyo. Shares of Odakyu Electric Railway Company was down 4.7 percent while those of West Japan Railway and East Japan Railway were down 4.5 and 4.5 percent respectively.
Property stocks traded higher in Shanghai after SouFun's report of a jump in prices boosted sentiments. Poly Real Estate Group traded 2.4 percent higher while Guangzhou Pearl River Industrial Development Company was up 9.4 percent.
The Shanghai Stock Exchange Property Index that tracks real estate shares, was up 1 percent.