GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares slip as China slumps on property curb worry
* MSCI Asia ex-Japan tumbles, led by sharp sell-off in China
* Nikkei hits 53-month highs
* Dollar index near 6-month highs after solid U.S. data
TOKYO, March 4 (Reuters) - Asian shares slipped on Monday, as worries about China tightening its grip on the property sector before the country's annual parliamentary meetings compounded weak sentiment already dampened by a patchy global growth outlook.
The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan tumbled 1.2 percent, dragged lower by a 2.3 percent slide in Shanghai stocks and a 1 percent decline in Hong Kong stocks.
Chinese shares were hit after Beijing on Friday said it could increase required down payments and loan rates for buyers of second homes in cities where prices are rising too quickly, the central government's latest move to contain housing costs.
Data also showed growth in China's increasingly important services sector expanded at its slowest pace in five months in February, reinforcing the view that the recovery in the world's second-largest economy remains modest. China's factory growth also cooled to multi-month lows in February.
"The PMI data were worse than expected and the latest move on the property sector deepens uncertainty about how funds would flow within the Chinese economy," said Chiyuki Shiraiwa, economist at SMBC Nikko Securities.
"I believe the economy remains on a recovery trend and bank loans were strong in January. But we have yet to see new projects take place and the effect of the latest regulation needs to be monitored," she said.
Resources-reliant Australian shares also shed 1.2 percent as lower metal prices and caution ahead of domestic economic data due this week prompted profit-taking after the index hit a 4-1/2-year high last Thursday. The market has since then pulled back on fresh concerns over sluggish growth in China and budget spending cuts in the United States.
Japan's Nikkei stock average bucked the trend to be the sole gainer in the region, rising 0.6 percent and scaling a fresh 53-month high as exporters led the index higher after data showed surprisingly strong U.S. manufacturing and consumer sentiment.
South Korea's manufacturing activity expanded in February at the strongest rate in nine months as new export orders rose by the sharpest pace since the second half of 2011, a private survey showed on Monday.
A private gauge of Australian inflation showed price pressures moderated in February, helped by falls in travel and clothing costs, indicating there was still scope for cuts in interest rates if needed to support the economy.
The dollar remained near Friday's six-month high against a basket of currencies.
It eased against the yen, down 0.3 percent to 93.33, as markets brushed aside comments from the government's nominee for next central bank governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, who said the BOJ must ease monetary policy further both by expanding the size of asset purchases and targeting a wider type of assets in order to achieve its 2 percent inflation target.
Despite the wide-ranging U.S. spending cuts that automatically kicked in on Friday, the U.S. currency was bolstered by surprisingly strong manufacturing and consumer sentiment which lifted U.S. equities higher in contrast to a weak close for other global equities and the euro on Friday.
Underlying the dollar's strength, data on Friday showed currency speculators increased their bets in favour of the U.S. dollar in the latest week.
Evidence of Europe's problems, with Spain also at risk of needing a state bailout, came on Friday as data showed that Germany and Ireland were the only two euro zone members with factory output growth last month. Joblessness in the euro zone rose to an all-time high.
"The U.S. is not looking particularly good, but in comparison (to the euro zone) it's looking somewhat better," said Rob Ryan, strategist for RBS in Singapore.
The euro steadied around $1.3012, after slipping to a low of $1.2966 on Friday, its lowest in nearly 3 months.
Just hours after across-the-board spending cuts officially took effect, President Barack Obama pressed Congress on Saturday to work with him on a compromise to halt a fiscal crisis that threatens both the economy and his broader domestic policy agenda.
London copper rebounded from a three-month low on bargain hunting, but worries about China's latest property curbs and U.S. spending cuts kept a lid on prices.
Concerns about the negative economic impact from the U.S. spending cuts also weighed on U.S. crude, which was down 0.1 percent at $90.59 a barrel. Brent was up 0.1 percent at $110.50.
A stronger dollar hurt gold, leading bullion down on Friday for its third straight weekly decline. Spot gold was up 0.3 percent at $1,579.86 an ounce on Monday.