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TOKYO, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average fell on Thursday as Japanese markets reopened after a three-day national holiday to face news of weak Chinese and U.S. factory performance.
Data released on Wednesday showed that U.S. manufacturing growth remained stagnant in September, holding at the same sluggish pace it had shown in August. Market players said the data brought on questions about just how far off an expected U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate hike may be.
Adding to fears of a global slowdown was a private survey showing that activity in China's factory sector shrank to a 6-1/2 year low in September.
The Nikkei share average fell 2.1 percent to 17,691.28, hitting its lowest level in two weeks. The Japanese share markets were closed until Wednesday for national holidays.
Japan's machinery sector, which relies on China for much of its business, was particularly hard hit by fears of a global slowdown brought on by the private survey released Wednesday.
The Topix machinery subindex shed 4.6 percent in midmorning trade. Hitachi Construction Machinery fell 6.9 percent and Kawasaki Heavy Industries lost 7 percent, while industry heavyweight Komatsu Ltd tumbled 6.7 percent.
Japanese retailers outperformed, in large part due to improved weather, according to market participants. The Topix retail subindex gained 1.8 percent in midmorning trade while discount retailer Don Quijote shares rose 4 percent and Aeon climbed 3.3 percent.
"Retail is reheating over the past couple of months, which is an incredible relief when the export side of the economy is looking so bad," said Nicholas Smith, a strategist at CLSA.
"Drugstores are doing well, electronics stores are finally seeing some growth after suffering a lot following the consumption tax hike. Restaurants have also accelerated quite a bit."
Market players said the Japanese market is likely to be guided by global economic indicators such as the PMI survey until some other catalyst emerges. Until last week, when the U.S. Federal Reserve decided against it, that catalyst was widely expected to be an interest rate hike in the U.S.
Japanese automakers were down in the wake of Volkswagen's diesel emissions scandal, which has intensified scrutiny on the industry's environmental testing standards. But Volkswagen competitor Toyota Motor Corp outperformed to fall less than others, losing 1.3 percent.
The broader Topix lost 1.6 percent to 1,438.5 in midmorning trade and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 (Reporting by Joshua Hunt; Editing by Eric Meijer)