Asian Stocks Mixed As Ukraine Concerns Resurface

By RTT News, 
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(RTTNews.com) - Asian stocks ended mixed on Monday as caution set in after five days of gains. Another bout of tensions in Ukraine and muted U.S. cues sapped risk appetite as investors await the release of the minutes from the Bank of England and Federal Reserve meetings later in the week.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Friday that Ukrainian forces had attacked and destroyed part of a column of Russian military vehicles that crossed on to Ukrainian soil and part of it no longer exists. The Russian government, however, denied the claims and has accused the Ukrainian government of trying to block efforts to provide humanitarian aid.

China's Shanghai Composite index rose 0.57 percent to 2,239.47, an eight-month high, as gains in technology and shipping stocks outweighed weakness in the property sector. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended virtually unchanged at 24,955.46 as investors digested weaker-than-expected Chinese economic data.

New home prices in most Chinese cities fell in July from the previous month, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed. Prices fell in 64 out of the total 70 cities last month even as local governments eased property curbs. Property prices in Hangzhou dropped the most, by 2.5 percent in July from the previous month, while prices in major cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen fell 1.4 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

Another report from the Ministry of Commerce showed that foreign direct investment into China logged a double-digit decline in July. FDI fell 16.95 percent from the prior year to $7.81 billion and by 0.4 percent to $71.14 billion during January to July.

Japanese shares rose slightly, with transport and oil stocks pacing the gainers amid lack of any major near-term triggers. The benchmark Nikkei average gained 0.03 percent to finish at 15,322.60, extending its winning streak to the sixth consecutive session. Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. shares soared 15.4 percent. The company denied media reports that Swiss drug giant Roche Holding AG., its majority shareholder, is looking to take control of the company.

Among other top gainers, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Dentsu, Obayashi Corp and Tokyo Electron rose 3-4 percent. Mobile carrier SoftBank Corp rose 0.4 percent after announcing the sale of corporate bonds. Nintendo rallied 4 percent on a report it would offer an online Pokemon trading-card game on Apple Inc.'s iPad.

Australian shares ended firmly in positive territory, led by gains in defensive stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index moved in a narrow range before closing 0.37 percent higher at 5,587 as investors reacted to a slew of corporate earnings reports. National Australia Bank shares lost 1.6 percent. The lender posted a 7 percent rise in cash earnings in the three months to June 30 and said it would need to make additional provisions of at least 245 million pounds in relation to misconduct issues in its U.K. business.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 0.3 percent as it unveiled plans to raise $2 billion via subordinated bonds. ANZ and Westpac both advanced about half a percent each. In the mining sector, BHP Billiton rose 0.3 percent and Rio Tinto edged up 0.1 percent. Newcrest Mining shares fell 0.8 percent. The gold miner reported a full-year net loss of $2.2 billion after writing down the value of four mines.

Aurizon Holdings tumbled 3 percent after reporting a full-year profit drop. Ansell jumped 4.3 percent despite the glove and condom maker reporting a 70 percent decline in full-year net profit due to restructuring charges. Property group Stockland rose 0.7 percent. The company reported a five-fold surge in full-year profit but said earnings growth will slow in the near term as Australian businesses and consumers remain cautious.

In economic news, the total number of new motor vehicle sales in Australia fell a seasonally adjusted 1.3 percent month-over-month in July after a 1.7 percent increase in June, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said. On a yearly basis, new car sales eased 0.4 percent after dipping 2.2 percent in the previous month.

Seoul shares fell on institutional selling amid lingering tensions in Ukraine and Iraq. The benchmark Kospi average dropped 0.49 percent to 2,053.13.

New Zealand shares declined, dragged down by energy stocks as two new polls showed declining support for the ruling National Party. The benchmark NZX-50 index dropped 0.14 percent to 5,071.12 in quiet trading. MightyRiverPower slid 0.6 percent, TrustPower shed 0.7 percent and Genesis Energy declined 1.4 percent, while Contact Energy ended flat after saying its board of directors are actively considering a capital return to shareholders. Courier company Freightways soared 4.5 percent after reporting a three percent rise in full-year profit.

In economic releases, a monthly survey measuring activity in New Zealand's services sector continued to expand in July, the latest purchasing managers' index from Business NZ revealed with a score of 58.4. That's up sharply from the upwardly revised June reading of 55.2.

Elsewhere, India's Sensex was rallying 1.1 percent and Indonesian shares were marginally higher, while Singapore's Straits Times index was down 0.2 percent and the Taiwan Weighted average dropped 0.7 percent. Singapore's non-oil domestic exports continued to decline in July as exports of electronic and non-electronic products fell, though at a less than expected rate, official data revealed.

U.S. stocks ended a choppy session mixed on Friday, as investors digested a mixed batch of economic data and kept a wary eye on Ukraine. Inflationary pressures remained modest across the economy in July, official data showed, easing market worries the Fed may raise interest rates soon. Industrial production edged higher in July while consumer confidence unexpectedly declined to a nine-month low in August, separate reports showed. The Dow slid 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 ended nearly flat, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 0.3 percent.

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