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Asian Stocks Higher, Mideast Unrest Caps Gains

Asian stocks rose on Tuesday but gains were limited as investors worried higher energy prices could stunt the global economic recovery.

Japan's stocks edged higher as investors covered short positions after sharp losses the day before, but future gains are likely to be hard-won due to concerns about the Middle East and oil prices.

Two major deals were applauded by investors with Hitachi gaining on the sale of its hard disk drive operations to Western Digital for about $4.3 billion, while Terumo Corp climbed on its purchase of U.S. medical device firm CaridianBCT for $2.6 billion.

The benchmark Nikkei ended the day up 0.2 percent. The broader Topix shed 0.3 percent to 939.16.

Hitachi gained 1.8 percent in heavy trade, while Terumo Corp jumped 3.2 percent.

Toshiba Corp fell 0.8 percent and Sony dropped 0.6 percent.

Shinsei Bank surged 6.3 percent after it set the price of its new stock offering for overseas investors at 108 yen per share, a 3.6 percent discount to Monday's closing price of 112 yen.

Seoul shares ended up 0.8 percent after volatile trade, lifted by shipbuilders and financials, but falls in technology plays like Samsung Electronics dented upside momentum.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) finished up 16.05 points at 1,996.32 points, hovering near its 20-day moving average of 1,990.

Bargain hunting following substantial falls in the previous session buoyed the market, lifting the main index closer to 2,000 points, analysts said.

Samsung Electronics shares continued trading weakly despite posting their biggest daily percentage loss in nearly 16 months in previous session, weighed by a 2.7 percent fall in the U.S. Philadelphia semiconductor index.

Hynix Semiconductor lost 0.9 percent.

But shares in Korea Zinc, the world's No.2 zinc refiner and also a producer of gold ingot, rallied 5.5 percent as spot gold moved steadily around its record high of $1,440.40 an ounce hit on Monday.

Banks and insurers advanced ahead of the Bank of Korea's interest rate meeting on Thursday amid expectations of a rate increase.

Shares in Shinhan Financial Group rose 1.8 percent and Samsung Life Insurance advanced 2.3 percent.

Shares in Hyundai Heavy Industries rose 2.3 percent and STX Offshore & Shipbuilding surged 5.2 percent.

Australian stocks ended 0.2 percent higher after a weak start as investors found bargains at least among the banks, but jitters over high oil prices restraining global growth kept investors out of riskier sectors like mining.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 gained 10.3 points to close at 4,808.2.

Top miner BHP Billiton closed 0.6 percent higher, while Rio Tinto fell 0.3 percent.

While most other miners fell, the day's top gainer was Extract Resources.

The uranium explorer jumped 7.3 percent to A$9.94 after its 43 percent stakeholder Kalahari Minerals said it was in talks about a possible $1.23 billion takeover offer from a Chinese state-owned nuclear power producer.

Drilling services group Boart Longyear rose 2.6 percent after CEO Craig Kipp reaffirmed in an interview with Reuters that the company expects revenue to grow 20 percent this year and operating earnings to grow 35 percent.

In Greater China, the Shanghai Composite Index ended up 0.1 percent at 2,999.9 points, just shy of the key 3,000-point psychological barrier, after a 1.8 percent gain on Monday.

The Hang Seng closed up 1.7 percent, a late jump in heavyweight HSBC built on an earlier rally in energy counters.

Indian markets edged up, tracking gains in the region. The Sensex finished 1.2 percent higher.

India's Congress party and a key ally appeared closer to a deal to retain the ruling coalition's parliamentary majority on Tuesday after threats to quit the government sparked worries of political instability in Asia's third-largest economy.

Over in Singapore, the Straits Times Index (STI) ended up 1.1 percent with shares of Keppel Corp rising 3.3 percent.

The FTSE CNBC 100 was trading up 0.1 percent.