Asian Markets End Mixed in Seesaw Trade

Asian markets ended mixed Thursday in seesaw trading, following the Dow's firm close Wednesday on a rebound in financial stocks. Japan finished flat whilst South Korea fell over 1 percent and Australia climbed 1 percent.

The threat of lost production sent crude oil up for the third day in a row, now trading above $118 a barrel, ahead of Gustav's expected impact this weekend.

The U.S. dollar fell from six-month highs against the euro, as hawkish comments from European Central Bank officials rekindled speculation about interest rate hikes.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average edged up 0.1 percent after seesaw trade, with Ricoh surging after it bought a U.S. distributor, a move that sent rival Canon tumbling to a four-month low. But investors spent the day seeking clear direction, with banks such as Mizuho Financial Group down on long-term worries about the U.S. and domestic economies while defensive shares fared well.

Seoul shares fell 1.3 percent led by technology issues such as Samsung Electronics on outlook worries, carmaker Hyundai Motor fell on news of partial strikes by unionised workers.

Australian shares closed up 1.1 percent as rises in gold, oil and base metal prices boosted resources stocks, though Macarthur Coal lost out after its earnings report disappointed.

Hong Kong shares fell 2.3 percent with several blue chips including China Mobile and Esprit Holdings tumbling amid gloomy analyst predictions for the second half. China Mobile, the world's largest wireless carrier, dived 6.3 percent, erasing the previous session's gains, as the company gears up to face increasing competition in a shifting telecoms landscape and pressure on voice margins.

Singapore's Straits Times Index edged 0.4 percent lower. Shares of scaffolding and insulation provider Hai Leck Holdings fell below their initial public offering at the stock's debut.

China's Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.3 percent, led by financial shares, but the overall market was mixed and trade remained sluggish. The top listed securities firm, CITIC Securities advanced, still buoyed by hopes that regulators would take further steps to revive the stock market, conceivably including the launch of stock index futures trade. But oil giant PetroChina fell after saying its net profit in the second quarter dropped 38 percent under
international accounting standards, slightly underperforming analysts' expectations.