Nikkei eases 0.2%
Japan's key Nikkei 225 index closed down modestly late Monday, after bouncing into positive territory at the start of the afternoon session, following a pause in the yen's weakening. Markets in Japan, which were shut since last Wednesday for the holiday season, touched a two-and-a-half-week low of 17,219 earlier in the session.
Exporters turned broadly lower as the currency gained against the greenback. Electronics like Nikon and Canon lost 2.2 and 1.4 percent each while carmakers Toyota Motor and Suzuki Motor fell 0.7 and 1.5 percent, respectively.
A rebound in index heavyweights helped to cap losses; Fast Retailing, owner of clothes brand Uniqlo, reversed losses to tick up 0.1 percent while mobile carrier Softbank trimmed losses to 0.7 percent by the end of Monday.
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Mainland indices mixed
China's Shanghai Composite index extended 2014's positive momentum to rally 3.5 percent on Monday, hitting its highest level since December 2009 on its first trading session of the year.
Among top gainers, train makers CSR and China CNR rose the maximum allowable of 10 percent, benefiting from last week's confirmation of a $26 billion merger.
Chinese airlines also surged on the back of a cut in fuel surcharge announced by the Civil Aviation Administration of China on December 31. Air China charged up 10 percent while China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines scaled up 7.1 and 8.5 percent each.
However, Founder Securities underperformed the bourse, closing down 4.1 percent, after major shareholders sough court protection for some assets.
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In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index erased losses to hover near the flatline late Monday. Casino operator Melco Crown was in focus after it applied for a withdrawal of its listing in Hong Kong, citing limited fundraising opportunities and compliance obligations. The gaming stock slid 3.6 percent on Monday.
"I don't think there's anything sinister in this delisting," Nicholas Studholme-Wilson, VP and senior research analyst at Sun Hung Kai Financial, told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia."
"If you look at the trading volume, it is ridiculously illiquid [and] at this day and age, it is so easy to deal with U.S. stock if you live in Hong Kong so you might as well have one stock. I don't think this means they are throwing int he towel, it is just a technical reason," he added.