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Asian Markets Finished Mixed, U.S. Data in Focus

Asian markets closed mixed following a cautious day ahead of major U.S. data due this week and an interest rate meeting by the European central bank. Japanese stocks boar the brunt of declines, while Hong Kong investors enjoyed resilience in the Hang Seng.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei225 closed lower by 1.6% as property shares including Sumitomo Realty & Development fell on concern about a slowing market while worries about subprime debt hurt banks. The broader TOPIX index slumped 1.7%.

On a positive note, Sony shares gained 2.3% to 5,740 yen as investors cheered its decision to list shares of its financial arm on the Tokyo Stock Exchange next month, after raising up to $3 billion in an initial public offering to fund its core electronics business.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost some steam after hitting a record high of 24,283, but finished 0.8% higher. The index was driven mainly by gains in Chinese telco shares.

China Mobile jumped more than 3% during the intraday session to hit a fresh record of HK$107.30. Rivals China Unicom and China Telecom also climbed on renewed speculation of a restructuring in China's telecommunications industry.

The Shanghai Composite Index inched higher by 0.3% to 5,310.

Technology plays, which started the day on a strong footing, gave up their gains. Samsung Electronics had initially risen, thanks to ongoing buzz surrounding Apple , which is expected to unveil new iPods this week.

Australian shares gave up the day's gains to close in the red. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 ended 0.5% lower to close at 6,267 as investors sold banking stocks due to lingering worries about a global credit crunch.

But Coates Hire surged more than 7% after it confirmed it has received a higher takeover bid. Even though Coates did not specify who the bidder was, media reports said private equity firm Carlyle Group and its partner, National Hire Group, raised their bid for the equipment hire firm to about A$1.6 billion (US$1.32 billion) or A$6.29 a share. Coates finally ended 4.8% higher at A$5.82.

Meantime, retailer Coles Group leapt 3.6% to close at A$14.75 after it said its board had recommended a revised takeover offer from Wesfarmers. Wesfarmers' stock jumped 0.6% to end at A$38.81.

Elsewhere in the region, South Korea's KOSPI lost 0.5% to end at 1,865.

Hyundai Motor
jumped 0.7% to 71,400 won as investors cheered the company's tentative agreement with its labor union Tuesday over wage and other benefits. The agreement, if endorsed by a union vote, would pave the way for workers to avert a planned strike.

Singapore's blue-chip Straits Times Index closed 2% higher at 3,424, though, the Singapore Exchange said it was facing technical glitches and warned that the figure may not accurately reflect movements in the stock market.