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Stock market today: Asian shares decline after report shows US manufacturing contracted in May

Currency traders work near the screen showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), left, and the foreign exchange rate between U.S. dollar and South Korean won at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, June 3, 2024. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Asian shares retreated on Tuesday after a report showed that U.S. manufacturing contracted in May, in the latest sign the economy is slowing.

Oil prices fell and U.S. futures edged higher.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.5% to 38,749.25 and the Kospi in Seoul was down 0.4% at 2,672.43. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was the outlier, gaining 0.1% to 18,413.20, while the Shanghai Composite index edged 0.1% lower to 3,075.09.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.1% to 7,751.50. Taiwan's Taiex lost 0.7%.

On Monday, U.S. stocks drifted to a mixed finish.

The S&P 500 edged 0.1% higher, to 5,283.40, even though the majority of stocks within the index fell. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.3% to 38,571.03, and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.6% to 16,828.67.

Treasury yields also slid in the bond market after the report by the Institute for Supply Management showed U.S. manufacturing shrank in May for the 18th time in 19 months. Manufacturing has been hit particularly hard by high interest rates meant to get high inflation under control. That can also hit Asian economies that rely on exports.

Analysts questioned the significance of the report, given that the indicator has been declining for most of the past two years.

“So, why such a distinct wave of U.S. pessimism this time? Was it a manufactured excuse to take profits? Or is there a deeper cause for concern beneath the hood?” Tan Jing Yi of Mizuho Bank said in commentary. “We suspect it is a bit of both."

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 4.39% from 4.50% late Friday.

This week has several other high-profile economic reports that could send yields on additional sharp swings.

On Tuesday, the U.S. government will show how many job openings employers were advertising at the end of April. And on Friday, it will give the latest monthly update on overall growth for jobs and workers’ wages.

Stocks of companies whose profits are most closely tied to the strength of the economy dropped to the market’s worst losses. That included the oil-and-gas industry, as the price of crude tumbled on worries about weaker demand growth for fuel.

Halliburton dropped 5.3%, and Exxon Mobil fell 2.4%. They sank as the price of a barrel of U.S. oil dropped 3.5%. Brent crude, the international standard, lost a similar amount despite moves over the weekend by Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries meant to prop up its price.

On the winning side were some big technology stocks that keep flying regardless of what the economy is doing.

Nvidia climbed another 4.9% to bring its gain for this year to 132.2% after unveiling new products and services over the weekend. It’s been delivering blowout profits to keep at bay criticism that investors have become overzealous about the prospects for AI. Nvidia was by far the strongest force pushing the S&P 500 upward.

The jump was even bigger in another corner of Wall Street well accustomed to stomach-churning swings, both up and down.

GameStop soared 21% in a move reminiscent of its early 2021 rocket ride that shook Wall Street and brought the term “meme stock” into the parlance of our times. GameStop jumped after a Reddit account associated with a central character in the 2021 episode said it had built a stake of 5 million shares, along with options to buy more. The post from Sunday night said the position was worth $181.4 million.

The post made tidal waves online because it came from the same Reddit account that showed similar screenshots of big GameStop holdings in 2021 that helped the struggling video-game retailer’s stock price rocket higher, way beyond what many critics on Wall Street called rational.

“Meme stock” has become the way to describe companies whose prices move more on the enthusiasm of smaller investors than on any fundamental change in their business prospects. Other meme stocks also rose Monday, including an 11.1% climb for AMC Entertainment.

In other dealings, U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 52 cents to $73.70 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 48 cents to $77.88 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar rose to 156.38 Japanese yen from 156.10 yen. The euro climbed to $1.0908 from $1.0904.

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AP Business Writer Stan Choe contributed.

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