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Japan shares slip in holiday trading

Traders in Japan weren't feeling overly jolly on Christmas day, with stocks there snapping a five-day winning streak in holiday thinned trade Thursday, but China shares rallied, led by financials.

The Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.3 percent to end at 17,808.75, after tacking on more than 6.5 percent over the previous five sessions. The index is up around 2 percent so far in December. The yen was nearly flat around 120.13.

Most markets across Asia were shuttered for the Christmas holiday, with Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore and South Korea all closed.

Among heavyweight stocks in Japan, Sony shed 0.5 percent. The company was the target of a hacking attack that the U.S. government has blamed on North Korea, reportedly in as the isolated country objected to the film "The Interview" depicting a planned assassination of its leader Kim Jong Un. Earlier Wednesday, Sony released "The Interview" on multiple web sites including Google's YouTube video streaming platform, as many theaters hesitated to screen the film.

Shares of Japan Airlines dropped 4.0 percent. At the end of March, Japan's government plans to eliminate a corporate tax break used by the company, the Nikkei reported.

Shares in China surged, with the Shanghai Composite ending up 3.4 percent.

Bank shares climbed, with ICBC rising 3.0 percent, China Construction Bank adding 6.8 percent and the Bank of China gaining 4.5 percent. Local media reported that the People's Bank of China (PBOC) planned further measures to ease banks' liquidity conditions.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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In Taiwan, the Taiex index ended down 0.3 percent. Thailand's SET index shed 0.8 percent by mid-afternoon trade.

Overnight in the U.S., both the Dow and S&P 500 rose to intraday records, before losing losing steam in the final moments of trading. Dialing back from a 62-point jump, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 6.04 points to 18,030.21, another record close. The S&P 500 shed a fraction to finish at 2,081.88, with energy leading sector losses that included seven of its 10 major industry groups. In U.S. trade, Brent crude settled at $60.24 a barrel, down 2.35 percent, while U.S. crude oil settled at $55.84 a barrel, down 2.24 percent after U.S. crude stocks climbed more than expected last week to a record amid rising imports.