Asian Stocks End Mostly Lower, Australia Dips

Asian stock markets ended mostly lower Thursday after paring earlier gains on the back of leadership changes in Australia.

Julia Gillard took over the helm as the country's first female prime minister, which gave stocks a boost on hopes the proposed mining tax on super profits may be watered down.

Stocks had got off to a weak start following news theFederal Reserve acknowledged that the U.S. economic recovery is faltering.

Australia's first female leader, former deputy premier Julia Gillard, was handed power in an effort to avoid election defeat later this year. Gillard said she is looking for consensus over the proposed mining tax and hopes to end the uncertainty over the controversial tax.

But Australian shares dipped 0.1 percent. Miners managed to hang on to gains, on hopes an agreement can be reached over the government's proposed mining tax.

Global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto climbed over 1 percent. Fortescue Metals Group rose 2.5 percent.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 lost 6.39 points to end at 4,479.70, its lowest level in 2 weeks. It had risen as much as 0.7 percent earlier.

Top investment bank Macquarie Group dropped 4.7 percent to A$40.65 to an 11-month low after it said market uncertainty was hurting some business, in a change of tone from its previous upbeat outlook.

Rural services group Elders tumbled 12 percent, adding on to two days of sharp losses after a profit warning on Tuesday sparked a string of broker reports raising concerns about management credibility.

Nikkei Ends Flat, KOSPI Climbs

Japan's NikkeiAverage ended flat, holding above a key support level in choppy trade after losing 3 percent in the past two days.

The Nikkei started the day lower after the Federal Reserve's comments, but recovered ground by the end of the session with one market player saying European investors were likely buying domestic demand stocks to rebalance their portfolios.

Data also showed sales of new U.S. homes fell to their lowest level ever in May.

In choppy trade, the benchmark Nikkei 225 inched up 0.1 percent to 9,928.34. The broader Topix Index slipped 0.1 percent.

Further support lies near a six-month low hit earlier this month around the 9,400 level.

Sony slid 2 percent to 2,471 yen and Kyocera fell 0.7 percent to 7,630 yen. Honda Motor declined 0.6 percent to 2,704 yen.

But shares of Softbank rose 2.8 percent to 2,503 yen as Apple iPhone 4 made its global debut, with fans pouring into Softbank outlets and Apple's flagship Japan store. Softbank is the exclusive iPhone operator in Japan.

Dai-ichi Seiko, which supplies connectors to Taiwanese makers of panels used in iPhones and iPads, surged 9.7 percent to 3,845 yen.

While exporter shares were soft, shares of companies that depend on domestic demand such as property firms found favor. Sumitomo Realty & Development gained 2.9 percent to 1,672 yen, becoming the top percentage gainer among Nikkei components.

Seoul shares rose 0.8 percent to an eight-week closing high, with gains among banks, shipping companies and builders lifting the index from sluggish morning trade, despite weakness in retailers and telecoms stocks.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) finished up 0.81 percent at 1,739.87 points.

The market showed limited reaction to the South Korean government's growth forecast upgrade, which reinforced optimism over Asia's fourth-largest economy, but also added to
expectations for an interest rate rise in the near future.

Banks advanced, with Hana Financial Group up 3.2 percent and Woori Finance Holdings rising 0.9 percent.

Technology bellwether Samsung Electronics rose 1.9 percent, while Hyundai Motor fell 1.06 percent.

Ssangyong Motor surged 14.8 percent after the chief executive of Renault-Nissan, one of the bidders for the Korean sports utility vehicle maker, said the alliance's interest in Ssangyong lay in its plant capacity and that having more capacity in South Korea would make sense.

Hong Kong, China Turn Lower

Hong Kong and Shanghai shares turned lower, with the Hang Seng slipping.

The China Enterprises Index of top locally listed mainland Chinese stocks also ended in the red.

Shares in PetroChina fell 1.1 percent on news that it will shut one of its two refineries in northeastern Daqing city from late August for around 40 days maintenance.

Taiwan stocks rose 0.1 percent, paced by gains in netbook PC pioneer Asustek and Pegatron as they started trading following Asustek's spin off of Pegatron.

The Shanghai Composite edged lower or 3.1 points to 2,566.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore's Straits Times Index slipped while Malaysia's KL Composite also fell.