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Asian Markets Close Mixed, Chinese Stocks Slump

Asian markets finished mixed Thursday with financial stocks taking a hit while strong Chinese economic data raised investors' concern over the prospects of further monetary tightening. The Shanghai Composite sank 4.8 percent, but South Korea closed over 2 percent higher.

The mood was already jittery following a report from Merrill Lynch, which detailed the biggest quarterly loss in its history. Merrill wrote off $8.4 billion, mostly from bad investments related to risky subprime mortgage Wednesday. This, along with weak U.S. housing data, offered more evidence that the worst of the mortgage-related crisis may not yet be over.

The Nikkei 225 Average closed down 0.45 percent as a strong yen nailed exporters such as Canon, while bank shares weakened after massive Merrill Lynch losses further stoked credit fears.

South Korea's KOSPI Seoul gained 2.2 percent to end at a one-week closing high, buoyed by Hyundai Motor after its quarterly net profit
beat forecasts, but chipmakers such as Hynix slid on worries over weak memory chip prices.

Australian shares nudged down 0.15 percent after a choppy session, as losses in Australia and New Zealand Banking Group on
disappointing earnings offset gains in U.S.-exposed firms such as Westfield Group on hopes of a U.S. rate cut.

Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 1.6 percent higher, with Cosco getting a lift by 9.4 percent after Citibank upgraded the counter on news that the Chinese shipbuilding and repair firm said it had won $1.34 billion in new orders.

Chinese shares dropped sharply with talk of more policy tightening on the way after data released today showed the Chinese economy growing a robust 11.5 percent in the third quarter. This sent blue chips lower, pushing the Shanghai Composite Index to close 4.8 percent in the red.

Hong Kong-listed China plays fell, following sharp losses in mainland stock markets. But mainland lender China Construction Bank outperformed, supported by a broker upgrade, while Hong Kong developers vaulted on speculation of further U.S. rate cuts ahead of a Federal Reserve policy meeting this month. The Hang Seng Index finished 1.8 percent higher.