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Asian Stocks End Mostly Higher; Nikkei Slips

Most Asian markets chalked up modest gains Monday, after Wall Street closed out its best weekin a year on Friday.

Wall Street ended its best week in a year on Friday, snapping back from a long stretch of selling. Investors are looking ahead to what many expect will be a solid earnings season, with Alcoa reporting later tonight.

But Japan's stocks finished in the red after trading on positive ground most of the day, as the yen pared losses and after U.S. stocks futures slipped.

The government lost an upper house election at the weekend but market players said worries about policy deadlock had been largely priced in.

Japan's ruling party, mauled in Sunday's upper house election, faces an uphill struggle to win new allies to back its policies to cut back huge public debt and probably bitter infighting over whether the premier should quit.

U.S. stock futures slipped, spooking investors betting a positive U.S. earnings season.

The benchmark Nikkei closed 0.39 percent at 9,548.11 after trading higher most of the day.

The broader Topix slipped 0.4 percent to 857.70.

Even after hitting a seven-month low early on, the Nikkei gained 4.1 percent last week, its best weekly performance since December, as pessimism about the global economy receded.

Sony jumped 3.8 percent to 2,538 yen and HondaMotor was up 2.8 percent at 2,680 yen.

But the yen pared losses and profit-taking in other big exporters dragged Canon down 1.1 percent while Nintendo fell 1.9 percent.

Seoul shares closed higher, paced by gains in rechargeable battery makers and airlines, with foreign investors continuing buying amid rosy earnings expectations.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) finished up 0.64 percent at 1,734.05 points.

Airlines and tour issues outperformed as the local currency continued to gain. The won hit its strongest level in more than two weeks early on Monday, pointing to lower costs of imported jet fuel and higher overseas travel demand.

Korea Air Line advanced 1.74 percent and Asiana Airlines climbed 6.24 percent.

Major tour agency Hana Tour gained 1.09 percent and Modetour climbed 3.73 percent.

Shares in makers of rechargeable batteries rallied after the government said on Monday combined public and private investments in the sector would reach an estimated 15 trillion won ($12.53 billion) through 2020.

LG Chem and Samsung SDI advanced 4.8 percent and 4.6 percent respectively. Shares in SK Energy, which joined the market more recently, climbed 1.79 percent.

Koko Enterprise, which deals in businesses ranging from gold and diamond processing to retailing, surged by the daily limit of 15 percent after news C&K Mining, in which Koko controls a 15 percent stake, signed a Cameroon diamond convention.

C&K Mining signed on Friday the convention for the Mobilong diamond mine in southeast Cameroon and said it would be ready to start developing its reserves when awarded a license.

Mobilong is estimated to have industrial and gem quality diamond reserves of about 736 million carats.

But shippers declined, weighed by a near 2 percent loss in the Baltic Dry Index, which tracks the cost of shipping key commodities. STX Pan Ocean shed3.0 percent.

Australian stocks drifted 0.3 percent higher, with the market content to consolidate after last week's gains and ahead of the U.S. corporate earnings season.

After a sluggish first hour of trade where the market drifted between positive and negative, it managed to hold on to its meager gains.

The rise was helped by a gains in global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, which rose 0.47 percent and 0.98 percent respectively.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 13.6 points higher at 4,409.9. It rose 0.9 percent on Friday, capping off a weekly gain after two weeks of falls.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index nudged 6.8 points higher to 3,012.0.

Explosives maker Orica fell 5.6 percent in its first trading day as a demerged company. Its Dulux arm ended closed at A$2.54.

Most major banks were firmer, but other key stocks were mixed. Brambles fell 2.9 percent to A$5.40 and CSL retreated 0.8 percent to A$33.35.

Taiwan stocks gave up earlier gains to end the session 0.1 percent lower amid caution over the outlook for top companies.

The main TAIEX share index ended 7.7 points lower at 7,639.55.

But HTC gained on a share buyback plan, jumping 5.7 percent to its highest close in 22 months. The smartphone maker, which posted a solid second-quarter profit, said on Sunday it would buy back as many as 10 million shares from employees at T$526-631 each before Sept. 12.

Taiwan's two biggest flat-panel makers Chimei Innolux and AU Optronics advanced3.5 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively, on media reports they could win a joint lawsuit over a ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The firms and smaller local rivals are expected to save T$14 billion in tariffs as they would win a joint lawsuit with the U.S. and Japanese rivals, the Economic Daily reported.

Cathay Financial dropped 1.99 percent after Taiwan's top financial holding firm posted a net loss of T$960 million for the first half.

China's key stock index finished 0.8 percent higher at a two-week high, led by banks and property shares, as investors were upbeat China could shift to a more neutral stance in the second half year on policy tightening.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose, hovering below the tough psychological 2,500-point level, which analysts said could trigger strong upward momentum when breached.

The Hong Kong market also gained ground, rising for a third-straight session, buoyed by optimism over corporate earnings.

The benchmark Hang Seng index ended higher.

SHK Properties outperformed, advancing 1.3 percent to HK$111.10, boosted by brisk sales at its Lime Stardom project.

Shares of mainland banks also rose ahead of Agricultural Bank of China's A-share listing on Thursday and its H-share trading debut on Friday. The market is expecting a successful listing to boost the banking sector.

China Construction Bank was up 2.4 percent at HK$6.48, ICBC climbed 1.9 percent at HK$5.83.

Consumer goods exporter Li & Fung succumbed to profit-taking, shedding 0.8 percent to HK$37.50 after its 7.4 percent rally on Friday.

Chinese life insurance firms fell on news that the industry's regulator in China plans to lift the rate cap on life insurance products, a move that could potentially result in higher costs for insurance companies.

China Life Insurance Co fell 3.7 percent and was ranked the top loser on the Hang Seng Index.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore's STI and Malaysia's KLCI both chalked up gains.