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Asian Markets Mixed, Insurers Fall on AIG

Asian markets were slightly higher on Tuesday driven by a rebound in the U.S., but financials remained fragile after American International Group, which disclosed potential losses in its derivatives portfolio, raised fears it would become the latest casualty of the credit crisis.

Non-life insurer Millea Holdings fell 5.7 percent while Mizuho Financial lost 1.3 percent at the close. Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance tumbled 6.4 percent and Sompo Japan Insurance shed 5.4 percent.

Still, the Nikkei 225 Average managed to end just 4 points higher at 13,021 points.

Yahoo Japan shares rose after Yahoo Inc rejected Microsoft's takeover bid, saying it was too low, raising the possibility of a higher offer.

Seoul stocks rose, gaining moderately from the prior session's sharp losses as battered shipbuilders advanced on bargain-hunting and tech titles tracked gains on Wall Street.

The KOSPI closed 0.2 percent at 1,643 points on Tuesday, after having lost more than 3 percent the day before.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped 1.4 percent, as three straight days of losses and Wall Street's rebound overnight inspired investors to hunt for bargains.

Australian shares recovered in afternoon trading to close higher, though investors were still worried about the international credit markets.

"There's still concern about the market pricing of debt and that's translating into poor sentiment towards the financial sector here," said Juliana Roadley, an equities analyst at CommSec.

The S&P/ASX 200 ended up 1.3 percent at 5,608.

Shares in Cochlear, the world's top maker of hearing implants, tumbled more than 9 percent after its first-half results came in below analysts' forecasts, while home electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi plunged 8.9 percent, despite a 60 percent jump in first-half net profit, on concern over consumer spending.

Singapore stocks rose Tuesday, with the Straits Times Index ending up 2 percent.

Neptune Orient Lines rose 3.4 percent after the shipping firm said it had quadrupled fourth-quarter net profit to $196 million -- though the company said it sees U.S. trade moderating due to the slowing economy in that country.

Chinese markets were still closed for the Lunar New Year holiday and will resume trading tomorrow.

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