Weaker-than-expected manufacturing data across Japan, France and the U.K., along with falling crude oil prices pushed Asian and European markets lower as investors looked to safe-haven assets like gold and the Japanese yen Friday.
Chinese equities ended the day slightly higher, faring better than its Asian counterparts, propped up by encouraging manufacturing data for March, which showed that the world’s second-largest economy had rebounded into positive territory.
European markets were down Friday with shares in France off the most. The CAC 40 was down 1.81 percent while Germany's DAX was off 1.65 percent and London's FTSE 100 was lower by 1.27 percent. The pan-European Stoxx 600 was down 1.78 percent.
French manufacturing activity shrank in March as the flow of new orders weakened, while U.K.’s manufacturing sector grew at a slower pace than expected by analysts, according to reports released by data compiler Markit Economics.
In Asia, the Shanghai Composite closed 0.19 percent up while China’s Nasdaq-style ChiNext index ended the day flat.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell sharply, losing 3.55 percent by the end of the day while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down 1.34 percent. India’s S&P BSE Sensex was down 0.28 percent while South Korea’s Kospi index was down 0.45 percent.
"Normally, we could expect some sort of upside in the wake of better-than-expected Chinese manufacturing numbers,” Brenda Kelly, head analyst at London Capital Group, told Reuters. "But the focus appears to be on the negative," she added.
In the U.S., stock futures on the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Index were down about 0.35 percent while stock futures on the Nasdaq were down 0.41 percent.
Investors and industry watchers await the release of U.S. payrolls data to be released later Friday.