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Asia Ends Mixed; EU Debt, Earnings Eyed

Asian stock markets ended mixed on Tuesday as government debt burdens in Europe weighed on investor sentiment.

The FTSE CNBC Asia 100Index edged up 0.3 percent.

The Nikkei average edged lower on Tuesday, backing away from an eight-month high hit at the end of last week, as worries over the euro zone's debt problems prompted some investors to lock in profits on recent gainers.

Japan's announcement that it planned to buy euro zone bonds to support the European financial system boosted the euro against the yen , which briefly lifted shares of exporters but had a limited impact on the overall market.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 closed down 0.3 percent or 30.36 points at 10,510.68, after hitting an eight-month closing high on Friday. Tokyo markets were closed on Monday for a public holiday.

Falls were limited as many traders said they were already concentrating on this week's earnings announcements from U.S. companies, looking for further signs that the world's No.1 economy is picking up steam.

The broader Topix index was up 0.1 percent at 926.94.

The euro-sensitive precision machinery sector lost 0.7 percent and exporters with high exposure to Europe were among the biggest underperformers on the Nikkei, with Canon dropping 1.4 percent to 4,155 yen and Olympus falling 1.1 percent to 2,519 yen.

Elpida Memory fell 3.8 percent to 1,001 yen after the Nikkei business daily on Saturday said that sharply declining DRAM chip prices are severely hitting suppliers' earnings, with Elpida likely suffering its first group operating loss in six quarters in the October-December period.

The world's third-biggest DRAM maker appears to have ended the quarter with an operating loss exceeding 20 billion yen, compared with a profit of 30.5 billion yen a year earlier, the daily said.

Resona Holdings slipped 7.3 percent to 485 yen after it said on Friday that it would go ahead with a share offering to raise about $8 billion, taking advantage of the recently buoyant stock market to make progress on its repayment of government bailout funds.

Nippon Steel rose 3.8 percent to 303 yen and JFE Holdings added 2.5 percent to 2,907 after Credit Suisse hiked the iron and steel sector to "overweight" from "marketweight", citing recovering demand in China.

Aeon, Japan's second-largest retailer, was up 2.9 percent at 1,051 yen after posting a 52 percent surge in quarterly operating profit and keeping its annual outlook
unchanged.

Seoul Gains; Refiners, Shipyards Rise

Seoul shares ended up nearly 0.4 percent on Tuesday, helped by a bounce in crude refiners and shipyards, but the index was weighed down by investor worries about government debt burdens in Europe.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ended up 0.36 percent at 2,088.32 points.

The European Central Bank threw Portugal a temporary lifeline on Monday by buying up its bonds, as market and peer pressure mounted for Lisbon to seek an international bailout soon.

The Bank of Korea is set to review interest rates on Thursday.

Shares in LG Chem rose 2.1 percent and SK Chemicals gained 1.2 percent.

Shares in Samsung Engineering rose 3.6 percent after the company said it had won an order worth $410 million to build a chlorine production plant.

Banking plays pared earlier declines and posted gains. Shares in Woori Finance Holdings rose 1.3 percent and KB Financial Group climbed 1.4 percent.

But insurers retreated, with Samsung Life down 0.9 percent and Korea Life down 1 percent.

Shipping plays continued to dip amid persistent declines in the Baltic Dry Index, which tracks the cost of shipping key commodities. Shares in Hyundai Merchant Marine fell 1.7 percent and Hanjin Shipping shed 1.9 percent.

Australia Ends Flat; Insurers Slide

Australian stocks bounced off the day's lows to end flat as a shift to defensive stocks such as top phone company Telstra and top grocer Woolworths lent support.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 1.6 points to 4,710.70, according to latest data. It rose 0.2 percent on Monday.

Woolworths climbed 1.6 percent to A$26.79 and Telstra rose 2.2 percent.

Insurers fell on concerns flood claims will mount as the thousands of people were urged to leave the outskirts of Australia's third-largest city of Brisbane, as flood waters raced eastwardskilling nine people overnight.

Suncorp , which gets over a quarter of its revenue from Queensland state dropped 3.7 percent, to a 4-1/2 month closing low. Rival Insurance Australia Group fell 1.3 percent.

Hong Kong-based mining investor Wah Nam International Holdings, which has made takeover offers for Australian iron ore prospectors Brockman Resources and FerrAus , jumped 15 percent on its Australian debut to 24 cents.

It raised A$3 million in its Australian initial public offering, with the funds to be used to pay fees on its bids for Brockman and FerrAus. Wah Nam's primary listing is in Hong Kong, where it rose 0.6 percent.

Hong Kong, Shanghai Rise; Energy Rises

Shares in China and Hong Kong rose on Tuesday as North Asian markets outperformed the region, with optimism over strong economic growth and corporate earnings offsetting investors' concern over Europe's festering debt crisis.

Energy shares also supported markets as oil prices continued to recover from a drop of more than 3 percent dip last week.

Shanghai's key stock index ended 0.4 percent higher at 2,804
points, bouncing off an intra-day low at its 200-day moving average.

Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index reversed two days of declines and rose 1 percent to 23,760 points, closing in on a short-term resistance at its October high of 23,840.3.

Hutchison Whampoa rose 4.5 percent to its highest level in more than three years and provided the biggest boost to the broader market as investors piled into its shares amid speculation that it might spin off its health and beauty chain, Watsons.

Shares of Li Ka-shing-controlled Hutchison have risen nearly 71 percent since Aug 5, breaking through a year-long trading range after the company announced investments in its 3G business.

Meanwhile, a steady recovery in crude oil prices benefitted shares of majors Petrochina and CNOOC, which gained 1.8 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively.

China's key stock index reversed early losses as investors snapped up property shares, despite a report that Shanghai was likely to impose a property tax.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slid 0.4 percent on Monday when the property sector underperformed after local media reported Chongqing may launch a property tax in the first quarter.

The property index rose 2.9 percent despite a report that Shanghai, the most populous city in China, would likely impose a property tax on second-home buyers in the first quarter of this year.

Property firm Gemdale, the most active stock on the Shanghai market, rose 7.8 percent, while China Vanke, the most active share on the Shenzhen market, was up 3.3 percent.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore's Straits Times Index closed up 0.4 percent while Malaysia's KL Composite ended little changed.