Asian Stocks End Mixed, Bailout Fears Persist

Asian markets were mixed Thursday, pressured by doubts over the U.S. government's proposed $700 billion bailout plan and worries about the economic fallout from the crisis.

The euro rose 0.6 percent from late U.S. trade to around $1.47 while the dollar index, which tracks the currency's performance against six major currencies, dropped 0.5 percent. The dollar fell slightly against the yen , while crude oil futures held steady below $106 a barrel as falling U.S. inventories were countered by evidence of slowing U.S. demand.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average lost 0.9 percent as Mitsui OSK Lines and other shippers sank after a key freight index fell, while worry about the U.S. financial sector bailout weighed on the market. Honda Motor and other automakers slipped on concern about the health of the U.S. economy, with investors turning defensive in thin trade.

South Korea's KOSPI ended slightly higher after moving in and out of negative territory throughout the session, helped by growing optimism over U.S. Congress approving a bailout package for the financial sector.

Australian shares fell 1.1 percent as banks weakened on questions about whether the U.S. bank bailout plan would get through Congress and as big miners slipped on worries about slowing Chinese growth. But investment management firm Babcock & Brown closed 39 percent higher on rumors, which it has denied, that it received a takeover approach at A$2.50 ($2.09) a share from a European interest.

Hong Kong shares edged up 0.1 percent on Thursday, supported by financial and energy plays and a 3 percent rally in No. 5 local lender Bank of East Asia, which rebounded a day after plummeting on denied rumors of financial distress.

Singapore's Straits Times Index was down 1.3 percent. Singapore Telecommunications was under selling pressure for the fourth straight session after another broker raised concerns about a slowing market for Southeast Asia's biggest telecom firm.

China's Shanghai CompositeIndex rose 3.6 percent on Thursday to its highest in more than three weeks, buoyed by share buybacks by state-owned firms and by signs of progress in long-awaited market reforms. The parent of China Unicom, a major telecommunications services provider, bought back 50 million shares of the listed subsidiary as major state-run firms heed Beijing's call to buy back shares of their listed units to prop up the stock market. China Unicom moved higher.

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