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Asia stocks stutter amid thinner pre-holiday trade

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Asian shares lost ground on Thursday amid thinner pre-holiday trade, after the Dow failed to reach the 20,000 mark overnight.

Japanese benchmark Nikkei 225 closed down 0.09 percent or 16.82 points at 19,427.67, while in South Korea, the Kospi ended down 0.11 percent or 2.23 points at 2,035.73.

The Constitutional Court of Korea will begin its first hearings on the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, who is accused of letting a close friend meddle in state affairs and wield insider influence for personal gain.

Chinese shares were mixed: the Shanghai composite closed up 0.09 percent or 2.73 points at 3,140.15 while the Shenzhen composite ended 0.133 percent or 2.66 points at 1,993.37. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng was down 0.82 percent by 3 pm local time.

"Markets have slipped into a holiday trading mood, with equities and major currencies hovering in recent ranges," said Chang Wei Liang, FX strategist at Mizuho Bank, in a note on Thursday.

Markets in Australasia were an exception, with Australia's ASX 200 finished up 0.54 percent or 30.43 points at 5,643.9 and New Zealand's NZX 50 closed up 0.722 percent or 49.11 points at 6,851.87.

California-based 3D printing company Robo 3D made its debut on the Australian Securities Exchange. The stock opened at A$0.15 per share, a premium after being priced at A$0.10. It last traded up 30.84 percent at A$0.14.

Over in New Zealand, the economy had surged ahead in the third quarter of the calendar year, as domestic consumption, home building and tourism boomed. The country's third-quarter gross domestic product jumped 1.1 percent, beating Reuters forecast of a 0.9 percent increase, and the fifth straight quarter of growth at 0.7 percent or higher.

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 economic news, central banks in the Philippines and Taiwan will announce monetary policy decisions.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 0.16 percent to close at 19,941.96.

The elusive 20,000 mark for the blue chips index is seen by some investors as "a major milestone [and] until it is broken it acts as Pied Piper, or perhaps Rudolph's nose, lighting the way for the risk-hungry and those scared of being left behind," said Kit Juckes, macro strategist at Societe Generale, in a note on Wednesday.

The S&P 500 lost 0.25 percent at 2,265.18 while the Nasdaq composite fell 0.23 percent to 5,471.43.

On the currency front, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, last traded at 102.96, below the 103 mark.

The dollar/yen stood at 117.58, while the Australian dollar was at $0.724 by 3:00 pm HK/SIN. The South Korean won weakened against the dollar at 1,198.63 as of 3 pm HK/SIN. The won extended losses for the sixth straight day, reaching as low as 1,200 against the dollar during the session.

Oil prices inched higher during Asian trade as the dollar softened. The U.S. crude rose 0.29 percent at $52.64 per barrel, while global benchmark Brent futures traded up 0.33 percent at $54.64. A weaker dollar makes the greenback-denominated commodities, including oil, cheaper for holders of other currencies.

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