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Asian Markets Close Lower as Chip Stocks Weigh

Asian stocks finished mostly lower Thursday as losses in the chip sector pulled the major indexes into the red, following a negative report on Intel.

Chip-related shares were among the biggest decliners, taking their cue from Intel and Micron Technology's drop on Wall Street Wednesday. Japan's Kyocera, Advantest and South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor were all sharply lower.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average shed 0.6% from the previous session's nine-week closing high, dragged down by high-tech shares such as Kyocera and Sony. Retail giant Seven & I Holdings dropped more than 3% on news it will likely miss its first-half profit target. But the market received some support as banks such as Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group continued their rally on the notion the worst is over for U.S. subprime loan problems.

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.

South Korea's KOSPI ended lower for the first time in two weeks, losing 0.5%, led by chipmakers such as Hynix. But expectations for increased construction projects in North
Korea after leaders of the two Koreas agreed on several economic cooperation schemes buoyed some builders including Hyundai Engineering & Construction.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index closed 1.4% down as top miner BHP Billiton continued to retreat on worries the recent rally in resource stocks may have been overdone, while energy firms fell on weaker oil prices. Financial shares, which have gained in the previous two sessions on optimism that the worst of the credit crisis may be over, also dropped back, adding further pressure on the market.

Singapore's Straits Times Index bucked the downward trend to close 0.8% higher, with shares of Singapore Airlines advancing after the city state concluded an open skies agreement with the United Kingdom that removes all restrictions on air services provided by airlines based in the two countries.

Hong Kong blue chips fell 1.5% while China plays dropped 2.8% as investors sold recent gainers such as China Life, a day after the broad market posted its ninth consecutive record. But the selloff spared traditional Hong Kong plays, as investors switched out of overplayed mainland names into laggards like global bank HSBC Holdings.