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Asian Markets Close Mixed, Japan Makes Gains

Asian stocks were mixed in lackluster trade Thursday. Markets drifted in a narrow range in and out of positive territory. But Japan, South Korea and Australia managed to make some gains.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average edged up 0.20%, with the overall market buoyed by companies such as Japan Steel Works while semiconductor-linked firms took a hit. Shares of Aiful and other consumer finance companies also tumbled on media reports that credit card firm Mitsubishi UFJ Nicos expected to post an annual net loss.

A man uses his mobile phone in front of electronic stock boards at the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX Ltd.) headquarters in Sydney, Australia.
Ian Waldie | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A man uses his mobile phone in front of electronic stock boards at the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX Ltd.) headquarters in Sydney, Australia.

Seoul shares closed up 0.3% to a seven-week closing high as exporters such as LG Electronics gained after this week's U.S. rate cuts eased worries about growth in South Korea's second-biggest export market. But global index provider FTSE's decision not to upgrade South Korea weighed on brokerages such as Daewoo Securities , while chip makers extended a recent slide amid worries about their earnings.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index ended up to set a fresh two-month closing high, as miners rose on a jump in metals prices, though gains were capped as bank shares erased early gains amid lingering credit worries. But shares in drug manufacturer and distributor Sigma Pharmaceuticalsslumped as much as 15% after it reported a drop in first-half profits and cut its forecast.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed 0.6% higher, with recent laggard PetroChina leading the gainers and Sinopec climbing on speculation of an asset injection by its parent.

Singapore's Straits Times Index finished 1.2% lower in subdued trading. Leading the decliners, Southeast Asia's largest telecom firm Singtel, fell as much as 4% after Deutsche Bank cut its rating for the stock to "hold" from "buy" on valuation concerns.

Chinese stocks closed higher by 1.4%, with blue chip insurance stocks and airlines boosted the Shanghai Composite Index. Turnover shrank as IPOs diverted money from the market. Bank of Beijing, which soared 81% Wednesday, rose a further 6% helping to stabilize other banking
shares.