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Asian Markets End Mixed, Japan Closes Higher

CNBC.com
Tuesday, 8 Jan 2008 | 5:32 AM ET

Asian markets closed mixed Tuesday following a shaky start to the week. Japan managed to finish slightly higher after spending most of the day in negative territory. But South Korea closed lower.

Japanese stocks rode a late wave of bargain-hunting to their first positive close of 2008 as investors snapped up banks, shipping and railway shares. The Nikkei 225 Average closed 0.1 percent higher. The rise capped a volatile day in which the Nikkei fell nearly 1 percent in the first few minutes of trade to briefly touch 14,365.86, a loss of roughly 6 percent and more than 900 points in the first three trading days this year. Gains by Sony on positive expectations after good holiday sales also helped boost the market through continuing sales of chip-related shares limited gains.

South Korea's KOSPI closed 0.3 percent down at their lowest close since Nov. 23, as investors sold off key electronics goods exporters and banks amid lingering worries over the slowing U.S. economy and jittery global markets.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index closed lower as negative sentiment brought on by the fear of a recession in the U.S. continued to weigh on the stock market. Resource shares bore the brunt of the selling pressure after their offshore peers fell sharply overnight. BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto both fell.

Hong Kong stocks ended down 0.3 percent, despite an early boost from shares in local property developers, which gained amid expectations of more U.S. rate cuts. Meanwhile China Merchants Bank's strong profit forecast boosted mainland lenders and China Shipping Development shot up more than 7 percent, after saying its earnings rose 65 percent in 2007.

Singapore's Straits Times Index also dipped into negative territory ahead of the end of trading. Shares of fuel trader Chemoil tumbled after the firm said its founder and chief executive Robert Chandran was killed in a helicopter crash on Monday.

The Shanghai Composite Index was down by 0.1 percent at the end of trading.