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Asian markets end mixed as Hang Seng rises for 3rd straight day, Nikkei retreats

Asian markets end mixed as Hang Seng rises for 3rd straight day, Nikkei retreats

Asian markets ended mixed Thursday as Hong Kong's key index advanced for a third day while Japanese stocks retreated on worse-than-expected industrial production numbers.
Hong Kong's stock market was led higher by property stocks, which rose on the local government's property tax concessions and expectations of another U.S. interest rate cut. The blue chip Hang Seng Index rose 107.85 points, or 0.4 percent, to 24,591.69.
Traders said the uncertain outlook for the American economy _ a vital export market _ would lead to choppy trade in the near term. In his testimony to the U.S. Congress Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned of sluggish business growth ahead and signaled a willingness by the central bank to cut interest rates again.
Investors in Hong Kong welcomed billions of dollars in tax cuts and other relief measures handed out by the Hong Kong government after posting a record fiscal surplus. Financial Secretary John Tsang said property taxes will be waived for the coming fiscal year ending March 2009.
"Property stocks were boosted by the government's budget measures, while sentiment on the sector is expected to remain positive ahead of the U.S. Fed meeting," said Peter Lai, a director at DBS Vickers.
Sun Hung Kai Properties rose 2.3 percent, bringing its rise since Tuesday to 9 percent. Cheung Kong rose 1.3 percent.
In Tokyo, stocks retreated from seven-week highs as investors took profits in high tech blue-chips after a weakening dollar and worse-than-expected industrial output numbers soured market sentiment.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index lost 105.79 points, or 0.75 percent, to close at 13,925.51 points. The index rose 1.5 percent the day before to its highest level since Jan. 11.
Japanese industrial production _ a widely watched indicator in the export-driven economy _ fell 2 percent in January from December, the government said. That was worse than the 0.6 percent drop projected by economists.
Technology shares fell, including Tokyo Electron, which shed 4.6 percent, and Sony Corp., which dropped 1.9 percent.
Export-oriented shares also suffered from the dollar's weakness against the yen. The dollar bought 106.32 yen in midafternoon Tokyo trading, down from 106.45 yen late Wednesday in New York. The euro, meanwhile, slipped to US$1.5113 from US$1.5120. It had broken above $1.50 for the first time Wednesday.
Down under, Australian stocks slid, hurt by declines in banks and signs that the U.S. stock market may have peaked after a recent run-up.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index sank 2 percent to 5,651.2. Traders said the index's recent rapid climb to a three-week high had left it vulnerable to bad news.
"We went up 5 percent in four days, with the major banks up 8 percent to 10 percent, so we were always likely to get some profit-taking," said Patrick Crabb, a senior institutional trader with Goldman Sachs JB Were.
On the Chinese mainland, shares fell on renewed concerns that corporate fundraising plans might flood the markets with new shares, straining liquidity.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.8 percent, or 34.53 points, to 4,299.51. The Shenzhen Composite Index rose 1.3 percent to 1,356.61.
An announcement by Shanghai Pudong Development Bank that it was scaling back the size of a proposed additional share offering failed to reassure investors jittery over other large firms' fund-raising plans, analysts said.
Investors are also cautious over potential policy changes that could emerge during the annual session of the national legislature, the National People's Congress, and a parallel advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which convene in Beijing next week. Major policy and regulatory changes could emerge during their meetings.
Elsewhere, Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 0.7 percent to 3,074.15, and South Korea's Kospi rose 0.9 percent to 1,736.17.


Updated : 2020-12-01 04:51 GMT+08:00