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Asian Markets Waver in Thin Holiday Trade

Asian markets bounced back and forth in a narrow trading band Monday. Trading was quiet after most major overseas centers were closed on Friday due to the long Easter weekend.

The Australian and Hong Kong markets are closed for the Easter Monday holiday. They will reopen Tuesday.

The outlook for U.S. banks was more optimistic after Wells Fargo posted better-than-expected quarterly results are expected to keep sentiment positive. Investors are keenly awaiting more U.S. bank results due out this week, including Citigroup on Friday.

The U.S. dollar strengthened against both the euro and the yen , while oil futures were trading below $52 a barrel.

In data released just before the market's open, Japanese wholesale prices fell 2.2 percent in March from a year earlier, below a median market forecast for a 1.8 percent decrease, Bank of Japan said. The March data followed a revised 1.6 percent fall in the year to the previous month.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average closed 0.4 percent lower in see-saw trade, weighed down by defensive stocks, while banking shares such as MUFG gained on growing optimism about the health of the global economy. Investors were keenly awaiting U.S. bank results due this week, keeping trading activity in check, but sentiment was expected to stay upbeat after Wells Fargo posted better-than-expected quarterly results.

Seoul shares ended slightly firmer led by shipbuilders and auto issues, but gains were limited on caution before earnings results and profit-taking after the main index's latest run of rises. Hyundai Heavy Industries was up 2.4 percent, but still trading nearly flat on the year. Samsung Heavy was up 5 percent.

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Singapore's Straits Times Index jumped 1.1 percent. Southeast Asia's biggest bank DBS Group fell 2.5 percent, after its CEO Richard Stanley passed away on Saturday.

China's Shanghai Composite Index climbed 0.5 percent in heavy trade, with energy and steel shares strong as economic data released over the weekend showed robust loan and money supply growth, fuelling optimism for an early recovery. Coal industry leader China Shenhua Energy gained while Datong Coal also advanced. Traders cited speculation that the companies' parent firms may hike prices charged to electric power producers, although analysts remained skeptical that there would be much room for price increases.

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