Asian equities mirrored Wall Street to trade mixed on Monday as cautious sentiment set in after fresh conflict in Ukraine at the weekend. Investors were also closely watching China's new home prices which posted a third consecutive month of decline in July.
U.S. stocks ended the week mixed in below-average trade volume after news of fresh conflict in Eastern Europe. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.3 percent while the S&P 500 shaved losses to close little changed. The Nasdaq reversed declines to gain 0.3 percent last Friday.
The (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, rose more than 8 percent to trade near 13.49. But the indicator was down 17 percent for the week, the largest weekly loss in 4 months.
In Ukraine, Kiev claimed on Sunday that its army had advanced into the eastern city of Lugansk, marking a breakthrough in a four-month-long campaign against separatists backed by Russia.
The White House on Sunday said President Barack Obama had authorized U.S. air strikes in Iraq to help retake control of the Mosul Dam and that the action was consistent with his goal of protecting U.S. citizens in that country.
Mainland shares mixed
Shanghai shares closed up 0.5 percent on Monday to hit a high of 2,239, levels not see since 13 December 2013. China's Shanghai Composite Index overlooked news that average new home prices in China's 70 major cities dropped 0.9 percent in July from June.
This was the third consecutive monthly drop following June's 0.5 percent drop, according to Reuters calculations from official data published on Monday.
Property stocks traded lower by late Monday; Vanke shaved earlier gains to trade 0.2 percent lower. Poly Real Estate and Gemdale fell 0.7 and 0.3 percent each.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong stocks declined 0.1 percent, after booking a three-year high on the Hang Seng last Friday.
The outperformer for the day was Chugai Pharmaceutical which rallied over 15 percent on media reports that Swiss drug maker Roche is looking buy the rest of Chugai for $10 billion. Earlier in the session, shares of the Japanese firm were up nearly 21 percent.
Sydney adds 0.4%
Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 hit a two-and-a-half-week high at the end of Monday's trading session, boosted by gains in mining stocks.
Whitehaven Coal scaled 1.1 percent. Ahead of earnings this week, Fortescue Metals advanced 0.2 percent while BHP Billiton rose 0.3 percent after the miner said it will spin off unwanted assets into a separate company.
Earnings continue to be the main theme of Australia's trade; National Australia Bank tumbled 1.4 percent, despite a 7 percent rise in its third quarter cash profit on higher mortgage growth and lower bad debt charges.
Ansell charged 4.3 percent, despite reporting a 70 percent slump in full-year net profit due to one-off restructuring charges.
Seoul falls 0.5%
South Korean shares reversed early gains to close down half a percent on Monday, breaking a four-session winning streak as steep losses by several index heavyweights weighed on the bourse.
Hyundai Motor remained in focus on concerns that its unionized workers could stage a strike later this week. Shares of the carmaker plummeted nearly 3 percent. Kia Motors and SK Innovation added to losses by plunging 1.5 percent each.
Meanwhile, the rose 0.3 percent to a five-week high of 1017.5 against the greenback.
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Singapore, Thailand watched
The Straits Times index ended 0.06 percent lower, as Singapore's non-oil domestic exports for July eased 3.3 percent from a year earlier, according to data from the International Enterprise Singapore Monday. But the data was a touch better than a Reuters forecast for a 3.9 percent fall.
Thailand's SET index overlooked better-than-expected gross domestic product (GDP) data to close 0.28 percent lower on Monday. Earlier in the session, the Southeast Asian country, battered by a prolonged political crisis, posted 0.9 percent growth in the April-June period after shrinking a revised 1.9 percent in the first quarter.