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Asian Stocks End Mixed, Japan Closes Lower

CNBC.com
Monday, 9 Feb 2009 | 5:39 AM ET

Asian stocks were mixed Monday as key markets closed lower after spending most of the session in the black. The U.S. dollar clung near a one-month high against the yen as investor risk aversion waned despite grim U.S. data.

Wall Street rallied broadly on Friday after figures showing U.S. job losses in January were the worst in 34 years, sparking hopes that Congress will act quickly to pass a stimulus package to help the economy. But the U.S. administration pushed back the announcement of a keenly awaited bank rescue plan until Tuesdayfrom Monday as it pressed lawmakers to settle their differences over the huge stimulus plan. Squabbling over the U.S. rescue plan is set to continue today, when the Democratic-led Senate votes to end debate on an $827 billion rescue package so it can be passed on Tuesday. President Barack Obama has demanded that the bill be on his desk for signing into law by next Monday.

The U.S. dollar strengthened against the yen. Crude oil futures a breather from its recent decline and steadied around $40 a barrel
as hopes that swift passage of the U.S. stimulus package outweighed demand concerns.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average closed 1.3 percent lower, with exporters trimming earlier gains as the yen advanced amid growing worries about a U.S. bank plan after its announcement was postponed. Nomura Holdings tumbled 14.3 percent after the brokerage, Japan's biggest, said it would raise up to $3.3 billion in its first issue of common shares in 20 years to replenish its capital base.

Seoul shares ended lower after gaining as much as 1.4 percent as Ssangyong Motor and Samsung Electronics slid, but banks' gains lent support despite multiple rating actions by Moody's on South Korean banks.

Australian shares ended up 1.1 percent, led up by mining stocks on firmer metals prices, and in part by the banks on optimism over a rescue package for the U.S. financial sector.

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Hong Kong shares came off early highs to rise 0.8 percent in its fourth day of gains after the much-anticipated unveiling of a US bank rescue plan was delayed till Tuesday. The Hang Seng Index is headed for its longest rally in two-months, fueled by encouraging data from China last week which seemed to suggest an early recovery for the economy.

Shares in Aluminum Corp of China surged 6.9 percent after Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to buy from neutral, adding the stock to its conviction buy list, as it expects aluminum prices to be supported by huge infrastructure spending in China and stabilization of the housing construction market.

Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 1.9 percent with banking shares such as DBS Group leading the declines. Heavyweight Singapore Telecommunications also weighed on the index with investors eyeing upcoming results with caution.

China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 2 percent in massive turnover, continuing a week-old rally that began when data implied economic growth might bottom out this quarter. But stocks came off their highs as some analysts suggested the rally was not sustainable in the longer term. The market's rally was triggered by a better-than-expected January purchasing managers' index (PMI), and by a surge in bank lending due to government pressure on banks.