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Asian Markets End Mixed as Credit Concerns Persist

Asian stocks were mixed Thursday with South Korea finishing over 1 percent higher in a volatile session which saw markets seesawing between negative and positive territory.

The U.S. dollar held steady against major currencies after falling the previous day on heightened geopolitical tensions with Iran after the fourth-biggest oil exporter conducted a long-range missile test.

After the closing bell on Wall Street, Wachovia Corp, the fourth-largest U.S. bank, said credit, mortgage and legal problems would result in a second-quarter loss of $2.6 billion to $2.8 billion. Wachovia also named Robert Steel as its new CEO.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average shook off most of its earlier losses, to close up 0.1 percent, led higher by bank shares on the view that they are undervalued, while Fast Retailing jumped on expectations for earnings results due out after the close.

Seoul shares rebounded 1.2 percent erasing earlier losses as gains in financial titles including Kookmin Bank and Samsung Securities outweighed the weakness in technology firms. But LG Electronics dropped 5.68 percent, hit by the stronger won currency that hurts exports. LG Display lost 4.22 percent on a weakening second-half outlook.

Australian shares fell 1.5 percent, led down by financials such as Westpac Banking Corp on concerns about credit markets and slowing economic growth.

Hong Kong shares reversed early declines to close almost flat, helped by a recovery in Chinese lenders, as investors focused on positive earnings estimates and talk that China may ease its aggressive credit tightening stance. Brokers also attributed the strong buying in locally listed Chinese shares to an article by the head of the China Securities Regulatory Commission's Jilin branch in the Shanghai Securities News, urging the creation of a fund to stabilise the stock market. The nation's largest bank, ICBC, surged. China Construction Bank, the biggest gainer on the main index in the morning, rose 2.6 percent, while Bank of Communications gained 1.7 percent.

Singapore's Straits Times Index ended 0.6 percent lower on news that the city state's economy suffered its steepest decline in five yearsin the in the second quarter, down an annualized, seasonally adjusted rate of 6.6 percent -- much stronger than economists had expected.

Chinese stocks closed 1.5 percent lower in volatile trading, after the Shanghai Composite Index neared chart resistance and regional markets such as Japan and South Korea closed higher.