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Markets Move Sideways,  Nikkei Hits 7-Week Lows

Uncertainty on earnings and economic recovery prospects saw Japanese shares finish at seven-week lows Friday, while prices for commodities such as oil and copper looked to build a floor after recent declines.

Japanese wholesale prices fell a record 6.6 percent in Junefrom a year earlier, Bank of Japan data showed, reflecting falling commodity and energy prices. The fall in the corporate goods price index was bigger than a median market forecast for a 6.4 percent drop and followed a revised 5.5 percent annual decline in May.

The U.S. dollar held steady in Asian trade after a steep fall following data Thursday showing fewer than expected U.S. initial jobless claims, and the yen was on the back foot after retreating from a five-month high versus the greenback earlier this week.

The greenback was steady just below 93.00 yen after pulling up from a five-month low of 91.80 set on Wednesday. The euro edged down 0.5 percent to 129.8 yen after rebounding from a two-month low at 127.00 yen, also set on Wednesday. U.S. light crude , which has fallen almost 20 percent since hitting a peak above $73 a barrel in late June, steadied above $60 a barrel,

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average ended just slightly lower, enough to
hit a seven-week closing low as caution prevailed over upcoming corporate earnings and economic indicators. The Nikkei fell 5.4 percent on the week for its steepest weekly decline since late January, hurt by the dollar's fall to a five-month low against the yen during the week, and as market players fretted that the rally in equities over the past few months may have been overdone.

South Korea's KOSPI closed 0.1 percent lower as sentiment grew more cautious ahead of corporate earnings season, with some techs falling as investors moved to lock in profits on their recent gains, but banks including KB Financial Group rose.

Australian stocks closed 0.8 percent higher as National Australia Bank helped lead a late run higher in financial stocks, adding to gains in miners such as Rio Tinto on higher metal prices.

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Australian stocks rose 0.4 percent as firmer base metals prices helped mining companies, while global miner Rio Tinto extended gains, up almost 2 percent, after Standard & Poor's raised its rating on Rio. But Amcor fell 1.4 percent after the Australian packaging group said it was still in discussions with global miner Rio Tinto to buy parts of Rio's packaging assets and there could be no assurance that a binding proposal would result from those discussions.

Shares in Hong Kong and China were slightly lower, but investors shrugged off their concerns over the global economic outlook to pile into the new listings in both markets, boding well for the languid primary market. China's first batch of initial public offerings in 10 months listed in Shenzhen Friday, with the new listings doubling intraday in hectic trade, while Hong Kong's new listing Amber Energy soared over 70 percent on massive interest with the retail portion of its issue oversubscribed 1,247 times.

The Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.3 percent. Debutant Guilin Sanjin Pharmaceutical soared 85 percent, while Zhejiang Wanma Cable raced up 123 percent. Both stocks were suspended for half an hour in early trade after jumping 20 percent intraday, in line with exchange rules.

Singapore's Straits Times Index was flat. News that over than 200 customers were suing DBS Bank in a bid to recover investment losses arising from the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers had almost no impact on shares of DBS Group, which were up 0.3 percent.