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Asian Stocks End Mixed, Economy Fears Remain

Asian markets closed mixed Thursday while the U.S. dollar remained weak on concerns about the impact of a credit crisis on the global economy and as record oil prices fuel inflation worries.

Casting a gloomy outlook on global growth, the International Monetary Fund forecast the U.S. economy will tip into recession this year and said there is a 25 percent chance that world growth will slow to a level that would be considered recessionary.

Meanwhile, a lowered profit forecast by United Parcel Service, which is considered a bellwether of U.S. economic activity, renewed fears that fallout from the U.S. housing slump
and credit crisis is spreading.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average ended down 1.3 percent, at its lowest close in more than a week, as worries about the U.S. and Japanese economies grew, with
companies such as industrial robot maker Fanuc hit by sagging machinery orders. Property firms such as Mitsubishi Estate extended losses, with exporters such as Toyota Motor sliding as the yen advanced against the dollar. All Nippon Airlines and Japan Airlines fell after Boeing said there would be a third major delay in the delivery of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane. JAL and ANA both said they were considering compensation from Boeingover the delay of the 787 Dreamliner.

But South Korea's KOSPI closed up 0.56 percent after wavering in and out of positive territory, with gains by chipmakers and financials outweighing losses by shipbuilders on global economy concerns. Hynix Semiconductor rose on hopes of a pricing turnaround. Hynix, the world's second-largest memory chipmaker, rose over 2 percent, after its Japanese rival Elpida said it would charge module makers up to 10 percent more for DRAM chips in the first half of April. World No. 1 memory chipmaker Samsung Electronics also rose.

Australian shares fell 1.3 percent led down by banking shares on a gloomy outlook for global economies amid a credit crisis, though some
resource firms rose on strong commodity prices. Financial firms fell for the fifth straight session as investors continued to fret about a deteriorating outlook for bank profits amid the global credit squeeze. National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank of Australia both declined.

Hong Kong stocks swung back into the green to close 0.8 percent higher with buying interest reemerging after the Hang Seng's decline the past 2 sessions, but volume remains thin. Financial plays gained after China's biggest bank, ICBC, estimated its net profit will jump in the first quarter, offsetting concerns over a U.S. recession.

Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 0.8 percent lower. Cosco dropped over 11 percent, on fears company may lose more orders after it gave up US$202 million contract to build rig hull.

China's Shanghai Composite Index ended 1.7 percent higher after the biggest bank and the largest listed brokerage estimated they would report good first-quarter earnings, but analysts said the market's outlook remained murky following a tumble on Wednesday.