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Asia mixed in choppy trade; emerging markets weigh

Asian stocks closed mixed after bouncing between gains and losses in volatile trade on Tuesday amid fears of a possible confrontation with Syria and as emerging markets were sharply sold-off.

The Shanghai Composite outperformed by 0.3 percent, South Korea's Kospi and Australia's S&P ASX 200 both ended flat while Japan's Nikkei led losses by 0.7 percent.

Amid emerging markets, Philippines' PSE Composite slumped over 4 percent to a two-month low after imports fell to a four-month low in June. Indonesia's Jakarta Composite meanwhile, declined 3 percent and Thailand's SET Index fell 2 percent.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry instilled fears of a potential military attack against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime after he said that all nations must stand up for accountability on the use of chemical weapons in the Middle Eastern nation. His comments sent all three U.S. major indices to negative territory with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing below the psychologically-important 15,000 level.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
---
HSI
---
ASX 200
---
SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
---
CNBC 100
---

"Turn the tables back a couple of years and we suspect we would be seeing global markets in free-fall at present. However, the fact the S&P 500 fell 0.4% yesterday, while Asian and European markets are showing zero panic highlights the huge change in investor psyche. Is it complacency or is it that the market has done its homework and genuinely thinks that the foreseeable risks will sort themselves out?' wrote Chris Weston, market strategist at IG in a note.

Nikkei eases 0.7%

Japanese shares widened their losses in afternoon trade after a fairly flat morning session amid a lack of fresh catalyst and as dollar-yen remained stable above the 98-handle.

Retailers weighed on the index with department stores Isetan and Takashimaya lower by 3 percent each while automakers Nissan Motor and Honda Motor fell 1 percent each.

Tokyo Electric Power Company rallied 12 percent on expectations of further government funding to deal with radioactive water at its Fukushima nuclear plant.

(Read more: Is Kuroda too 'in love' with his own policies?)

Comments from economics minister Akira Amari further weighed on sentiment. He said that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not provide any instructions to consider a cut in corporate taxes, which the Nikkei newspaper had reported earlier this month as a means of offsetting a potential increase in the nation's sales tax.

Shanghai up 0.3%

China's benchmark index rose above the 2,100 level to hit a one-week after profits earned by industrial firms rose 11.6 percent in July from a year earlier.

Automakers weighed on the index with FAW and Guanghzhou Auto down 1 and 2 percent, respectively but Dongfeng Auto bucked the trend to rise 0.7 percent ahead of posting earnings.

China Construction Bank, the nation's number two lender, inched down 0.5 percent after reporting a non-performing loan ratio of less than 1 percent at the end of June.

(Read more: Credit habit proves hard for China to kick)

Sydney up 0.1%

Australia's benchmark index managed to eke out slim gains at the close of trade despite weak earnings reports.

Surf-wear retailer Billabong closed down 5 percent after its annual net loss more than tripled for the full-year through June. Television network Seven Group fell 7.5 percent after forecasting 2014 earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) to drop by 30-40 percent.

Whitehaven Coal declined 1 percent after reporting a bigger-than-expected full-year loss. But travel agency Flight Centre rallied 8.5 percent after posting a 23 percent hike in annual profit.

Kospi slips 0.1%

South Korea's benchmark index erased earlier gains to dip below 1,890 mark, retreating from an earlier four-day high. But heavier losses were capped after the nation's key consumer sentiment index was unchanged in August, holding at a year-long high as on economic optimism.

Blue-chip automaker Hyundai Motor pared gains to end 0.4 percent higher following an initial 1.3 percent spike as wage talked with its labor union resumed.

By CNBC.com's Nyshka Chandran. Follow her on Twitter @NyshkaCNBC

Symbol
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
---
ASX 200
---
DJIA
---
Gold
---
JPY/USD
---
7201.T
---
7203.T
---
7267.T
---
KCN
---
NCM
---
538
---
1939
---
SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
---
.PSI
---
JSX COMP
---
THAI SET
---

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