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Asian Markets End Mixed, China Gains

Asian markets closed mixed Thursday with Australia slipping into the red after initially rising in the morning and South Korea paring back gains to trade flat. But Chinese shares managed to move higher with property stocks on the advance.

Japanese stocks pared earlier gains to finish flat. The Nikkei 225 Average closed just 0.01 percent higher. Investors were quick to book
profits in a highly volatile session with light trade. There was little reaction from the financial markets that Japan's trade surplus unexpectedly fell 12.2 percent in November from a year earlier to 797.4 billion yen (US$7.04 billion). But Japan's three largest banks, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Mizuho Financial Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial, rose sharply on talk they plan to reject a request to help finance a U.S.-led subprime rescue fund.

South Korean stocks finished almost 1 percent lower amid lingering worries about turbulent credit markets, but financials surged on hopes the president-elect would carry out deregulation and privatization of state-run banks. Lee Myung-bak, the pro-business candidate, won the electionon Wednesday. Builders such as Hyundai Engineering & Construction initially rallied on expectations Lee would deregulate the real estate market and initiate big public projects, including his pledge to build a canal across the nation, but the shares dropped as investors locked in gains.

Australian shares closed lower for a seventh day of declines, their longest losing streak in more than five years, on worries over credit markets and banks' exposure to the troubled
property sector. While some property stocks rebounded after steep recent losses, investors
were worried the global subprime mess could infect more sectors. But BlueScope Steel, Australia's biggest steelmaker, ended 2.9 percent higher after agreeing to buy U.S. steelmaker IMSA Steel Corp for $730 million.

Hong Kong shares seesawed in choppy trade, but ended flat, mirroring the shares of heavyweights HSBC Holdings and China Mobile. Hong Kong-listed China plays edged higher as coal shares climbed further on news that mainland power producers would pay more for thermal coal next year. Investors also bid up new issue China National Materials as a proxy for the country's sizzling economic growth. In contrast, two other debuts met with a cooler reception.

The Shanghai Composite Index closed up 2.1 percent as index heavyweights PetroChina and Sinopec surged and property stocks rebounded. Banking and property shares, which were hit last week by government tightening measures, were also making gains.

The Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia markets are closed for a holiday. They will reopen Friday.