Asian Rally Runs Out of Steam

The rally in Asian markets ran out of steam Monday afternoon as investors took profits from the recent run up in stocks. The key benchmarks in Tokyo and Seoul crept up to close marginally higher after a choppy session.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average ended the session 0.2 percent higher after weaving in and out of positive territory to hit a fresh six-month high. Toyota Motor, the world's biggest automaker, weighed on the market to decline 4.8 percent, after it forecast a much bigger-than-expected $8.6 billion annual loss and said it would sell about 1 million fewer vehicles this year.

Shares of Bridgestone, Japan's largest tyre maker, fell 7 percent after the company tripled its first-half operating loss forecast.

However, gains in financials lent support as they tracked their U.S. peers higher on hopes that the worst is over for the financial sector and the U.S. economy. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, jumping as much as 6 percent, after it denied weekend reports that it intended to scrap a planned $254 million purchase of Citigroup's Japanese trust bank, NikkoCiti Trust & Banking. MUFG ended the session up 2.9 percent.

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In South Korea, the KOSPI wavered in a choppy session to finish 0.2 percent up, with shares of automakers Hyundai Motor and Ssangyong Motor coming under pressure.

Korea Electric Power or KEPCO closed 3.8 percent higher, boosted by a news report that the government may hike electricity tariffs to mitigate the state-run utility's chronic losses. Samsung Fire & Marine also jumped, as investors cheered the insurer's strong earnings results and positive outlook for the current year.

But shares of online game developer NCSoft fell on competition concerns despite posting a 315 percent surge in first quarter net profit from the year before.

Australian shares closed lower, defying expectations of a big rise as a rush of capital raisings put pressure on the market. Oil and gas producer Santos announced plans to raise up to A$3 billion ($2.3 billion) in fresh equity. Its shares were suspended from trade. Shares in property investor Lend Lease fell after cutting its profit forecast while brewer Lion Nathan climbed after agreeing to the terms for a $2.5 billion takeover by Japan's Kirin Holdings. The S&P ASX/200 shed0.4 percent at the close.

Most Greater China markets stayed above the line to trade in positive territory. But the Shanghai Composite Index lost its early gains to decline 0.8 percent in gains to touch a nine-month intraday high after the country's premier suggested the government take more steps to support the economy. Investors also digested data showing the Chinese economy fell further into deflation .

The Hang Seng Index closed 1.7 percent lower despite Wall Street's gains and hopes of more investment flows from China. Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing, Asia's largest listed bourse operator, surged as much as 6.2 percent to a 9-½ month high, but closed 1.8 percent lower after a late-session selloff.

HSBC Holdings managed to close 0.3 percent higher after defying expectations of a widened net loss year-on-year for its U.S. unit HSBC Finance in the first quarter.

Singapore's STI stayed firmly in negative territory to close 3.2 percent lower as financials such as DBS lost ground on profit-taking.

Malaysia's KLCI edged 0.1 percent lower by the close.