Asian stock markets ended lower on Monday as manufacturing data from China failed to ease concerns over a slowdown in the world’s second biggest economy.

The preliminary HSBC China manufacturing purchasing managers index (PMI), which is a measure of the nation-wide manufacturing activity, improved to a two-month high of 49.1 in April compared to 48.3 in March.

However, the data failed to ease concerns of weakness in Asia's largest economy as the index continued to remain in the area of contraction for the sixth straight month, indicating that Chinese manufacturing sector remains in a soft spot. 

“Manufacturing activity accelerated in April but the employment index rose only marginally from March, so this will add to concerns about a slowdown and employment problems. This means China is likely to take more steps to loosen monetary policy and also provide fiscal stimulus, said Standard Chartered economist Lan Shen, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Japanese benchmark Nikkei declined 0.20 percent or 19.19 points to 9,542.17, Chinese Shanghai fell 0.76 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng plunged 1.84 percent.

In Japan, Yakult Honsha climbed 11.70 percent in Tokyo on news that France's Danone may increase its stake in the company to 28 percent from 20 percent.

DaewooShipbuilding & Marine Engineering declined 3.04 percent and Samsung Heavy Industries fell 2.50 percent in Seoul after Daewoo Engineering reported a 38 percent decline in its first-quarter operating profit.

Indian stocks plunged, led by declines from metal, realty, capital goods and tech companies’ shares. Benchmark BSE Sensex plunged 1.60 percent or 277.16 points to 17,096.68.

Infosys Ltd. plunged 3.92 percent on news that the software services exporter faces a probe from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) following accusation that the company misused B1 visas to send employees from India to the US.

DLF Ltd. plunged 4.21 percent after the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) said it will replace the company in India's benchmark 30-share Index with pharma major Dr Reddy's Laboratories.

Meanwhile, news from Europe also weighed on the sentiment. “News coming out from the weekend has not been encouraging – the collapse of the budget talks in Netherlands, hint of no further cheap money from the ECB, a hawkish BoE and the uncertainty over the French election,” said a note from Credit Agricole.