Asia Ends Mixed; Techs Up Despite Apple News

Asian markets were mixed on Tuesday, but technology plays outperformed despite news the Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs would take medical leave for the third time since 2004.

U.S. financial markets were closed Monday in observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

The FTSE CNBC Asia 100 index rose 0.7 percent.

Japan's Nikkei average got a boost from property and banking shares to edge higher on Tuesday

The benchmark Nikkei 225 ended the day up 0.2 percent or 16.12 points at 10,518.98. The broader Topix index rose 0.3 percent to 931.58.

The property sector was among the top gainers, adding 1.7 percent, after Nomura Securities hiked its target prices for eight property firms on a pickup in the real estate

Mitsui Fudosan rose 1.5 percent to 1,754 yen and Mitsubishi Estate jumped 3.4 percent to 1,627 yen.

But the Nikkei's gains were limited as a strong advance in real estate shares was offset by declines in steelmakers after a report by the Nikkei business daily that Nippon Steel would likely fall short of its pretax profit forecast.

Nippon Steel fell 1.4 percent to 293 yen and JFE Holdings lost 1.4 percent to 2,787 yen, while Mitsubishi added 1.1 percent to 2,392 yen.

Seoul shares edged down 0.2 percent on Tuesday, hurt by falls in autos and petrochemical companies, but strong gains in memory chip plays and shipyards helped.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ended down 0.16 percent at 2,096.48 points.

Samsung Electronics and Hynix Semiconductor advanced firmly after the Nikkei business daily reported that Japan's Elpida Memory planned to raise prices of DRAM chips used in personal computers by about 10 percent as early as this month.

Shipyards and some construction issues also posted strong gains as recent strength in crude oil prices pointed to an increase in orders from oil producing nations. Shares in STX Offshore&Shipbuilding rose 4 percent and Daewoo Engineering & Construction rose 3 percent.

But auto plays were weighed down by recent strength in the won currency . Shares in Hyundai Motor, South Korea's biggest automaker fell 2.3 percent and Kia Motors shed 1.6 percent.

Chemicals companies such as LG Chem and Namhae Chemical retreated following a power outage in the southwestern city of Yeosu, where the facilities are clustered.

Australian stocks closed 0.8 percent higher on Tuesday after quarterly production results from top iron ore miners were well received, while financial firms recovered some of their recent losses suffered after severe floods in Queensland state.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index ended 38.7 points higher at 4,801.8.

Rio Tinto shares closed 1.1 percent firmer after posting record fourth-quarter iron ore production, while Fortescue Metals jumped 8 percent after saying iron ore shipments rose 9 percent in the quarter.

BHP Billiton, which is scheduled to post its production results Thursday, rose 0.7 percent to A$45.62.

No. 4 bank Australia and New Zealand Banking Group led the lenders higher with a 1.2 percent rise as confidence returned to the sector beaten down by fears about the impact of flooding in Queensland state.

Insurance Australia Group fell 0.5 percent on worries over mounting insurance claims from floods in Queensland and Victoria state, but rival Suncorp Group climbed 1.8 percent following recent losses.

China's Shanghai Composite closed up 0.1 percent, supported by a key technical level and better-than-expected earnings from two banks. Industrial Bank and China Everbright Bank,said their net profits grew 39.5 percent and 65.88 percent, respectively, in 2010.

The strong bank earnings helped offset downward pressure from fresh signs of a further clampdown on lending. The official Securities Journal reported that the People's Bank of China had cut its 2011 lending target for banks by 10 percent from last year.

In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng finished flat at 24,153.98, with investors waiting for U.S. markets to reopen after a public holiday.

Finally, in Southeast Asia, markets traded in opposite directions, Singapore's Strait Times Index closed up 0.3 percent while Malaysia's KL Composite finished down 0.3 percent.