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Asian Stocks Ends Lower Despite US Gains

Asian stocks ended mostly lower Wednesday, failing to capitalize on a stronger finish on Wall Street, as doubts about global economic growth persisted.

Japan's Nikkei Average shed 0.8 percent as shares of exporters that rose the day before gave back some gains, but the index remained above a seven-month low hit on Tuesday.

Heightened fears about a slowdown in the U.S. economy after jobs data last week have exacerbated a bearish trend since April but market players said support at a key retracement level around 9,200 is expected to hold for now.

The benchmark Nikkei fell 58.39 points to 9,279.65, while the broader Topix slid 0.7 percent to 841.51.

Exporters slipped after rising on Tuesday, though many pared losses.

Honda Motor slid 1.6 percent to 2,506 yen, Canon Inc declined 0.5 percent to 3,335 yen and Tokyo Electron shed 1.9 percent to 4,660 yen. Kyocera lost 1.3 percent to 7,110 yen.

Among the gainers, Renesas Electronics rose 2.4 percent to 775 yen. The world's No. 5 chipmaker said it would buy Nokia's wireless modem business for about $200 million and that they would work together to develop next-generation modem technologies. After the purchase, it aims to double its mobile device business sales to 200 billion yen by March 2013.

Showa Denko climbed 1.9 percent to 164 yen after the Nikkei business daily said the company is expected to report a climb in operating profit for the six months ended June 30 on strong demand for flat-panel displays, for which Showa Denko provides aluminum parts.

Shares of Fukuoka Financial advanced 3.2 percent to 383 yen, after Deutsche Securities lifted its rating on the stock to "buy" from "hold", saying it expects the share price to reflect firm profit growth.

In Seoul, shares ended 0.6 percent lower, led by technology issues including Samsung Electronics, which declined despite posting a record quarterly operating profit estimate.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) finished down 0.55 percent at 1,675.65 points.

Samsung Electronics' shares declined 0.7 percent at 769,000 won, despite the world's No.1 memory chip maker estimating its April-June operating profit at a median 5.0 trillion won ($4.09 billion). That was higher than a consensus forecast of 4.8 trillion won polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"Samsung Electronics' numbers were strong enough, but failed to impress investors as they did not top 5 trillion won. This seems to have dampened earnings expectations for the second quarter," said Y.S. Rhoo, a market analyst at Hyundai Securities.

"Investors are not wholly confident about the global economic outlook. Recent weaker than expected U.S. data is weighing on sentiment," Rhoo added.

Shares in Hynix Semiconductor, the world's No.2 memory chip maker, fell 2.7 percent.

But shares in casualty insurers rose amid a solid sectoral and earnings outlook, with Hyundai Marine & Fire gaining 4.9 percent and LIG Non-Life Insurance up 3.4 percent.

"Casualty insurers are seeing a steady rise in new contract sign-ups, and the longer-term industry outlook is solid. Their upcoming quarterly earnings will come out firm as well," said Jang Hyo-sun, an analyst at Samsung Securities.

Australian stocks retreated 0.5 percent, failing to capitalize on a stronger finish on Wall Street, as doubts about global economic growth persisted.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 21.5 points to close at 4,254.6, after posting a 1.3 percent rise on Tuesday.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index gained 0.3 percent to close at 2,961.7.

Top global miner BHP Billiton rose 0.7 percent, following a strong jump in London and smaller gains in U.S. trade.

Gold miners were weak after the precious metal hit a six-week low, with Newcrest Mining down 1.9 percent at A$33.48.

Shares of Boral were in a trading halt. Australia's biggest building materials group is planning to raise about A$490 million ($412 million) to fund investments as it restructures the company.

Sigma Pharmaceuticals soared nearly 14 percent to A$0.45, after South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare made a formal cash bid for the company and did not walk away as some investors had feared.

China's key stock index ended 0.5 percent at a one-week high, shrugging off a report that Industrial and Commercial Bank of China may raise funds through rights issues, with
the market confident of absorbing the recent glut of new share issuances.

The Shanghai Composite Index stood at 2,421.1 points, remaining above the 2,400 mark it broke on Tuesday when the index closed up 1.9 percent.

Tight liquidity has weighed on the Shanghai market which has been one of the world's worst performers, second only to Greece. The market has weathered a flood of issuances this week, including AgBank's mammoth IPO and concerns over a series of bank fundraisings.

The index has lost 26 percent of its value since the start of the year, after Beijing introduced a range of measures in mid-April to cool the country's real estate fever.

Anhui Conch Cement rose 1.3 percent and Hebei Taihang Cement climbed 3.4percent. ICBC fell 1.7 percent and Bank of Communications shed 1.6 percent.

Taiwan stocks inched down 0.19 percent as investors pocketed profits from a three-day winning strea but smartphone maker HTC outperformed after posting stronger June sales and quarterly profit.

The main TAIEX share index finished down 14.02 points at 7,534.46.

The financial sub-index lost 0.42 percent after recent rises inspired by hopes of long-term
potential gains in China.

The tourism sub-index also rose 3.6 percent after reports that mainland tourists will be allowed to freely travel in Taiwan from around the end of this year.

HTC was Taipei market's most active stock by turnover. Its shares jumped 1.21 percent to a more than one-year closing high, after the smartphone maker posted stronger June sales and quarterly profit.

Powerchip Semiconductor, Taiwan's top PC memory chipmaker, rose 4.74 percent after giving bright earnings outlook.

Hong Kong stocks declined as investors took profits following Tuesday's gains and as a rally on Wall Street waned in late trading.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index fell. In Southeast Asia, Singapore's Straits Times Index closed lower, but Malaysia's KLCI ended higher.