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Asian markets mixed on thin Boxing Day trade

HONG KONG, December 26, 2011 (AFP) – Asian markets were mixed in thin Boxing Day trade Monday, amid ongoing concerns over Europe’s fiscal woes and investor caution in the last trading week of the year.

Japanese shares closed 1.00 percent higher, or 84.18 points, to 8,479.34, Seoul finished the day 0.56 percent lower, or 10.52 points, at 1,856.70, while Chinese shares ended down 0.67 percent, or 14.67 points, at 2,190.11.

Taiwan shares lost 0.26 percent, or 18.15 points, at 7,092.58, with Manila gained 0.34 percent, or 14.82 points, to 4,387.06.

Financial markets in Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand and Malaysia were closed on Monday for a public holiday.

New York and other major Western markets were also closed Monday for the Christmas holiday.

Chinese shares were weighed down by concerns over whether policymakers would further ease monetary policy after cutting bank reserve levels earlier this month for the first time in three years to revive a slowing economy.

Tokyo’s rise tracked an upswing on Wall Street Friday as dealers across the Pacific reacted to upbeat US economic data and a move by lawmakers to extend temporary tax breaks and unemployment benefits, ending earlier Republican threats to block the moves.

US new home sales rebounded and durable goods orders also came out better-than-expected, helping to buoy the market.

The absence for the rest of the year of scheduled eurozone events that could aggravate market fears about the region’s debt woes lifted sentiment somewhat, said Hideyuki Ishiguro, supervisor at investment strategy at Okasan Securities.

But Tokyo’s benchmark index could still run out of steam with participants expected to take a wait-and-see approach until fund managers return from the holiday in the US market, said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities.

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“They must have trimmed long positions before the break,” Hirano told Dow Jones Newswires. “Given firm US economic indicators, they may start buying back once they return.”

The European Central Bank’s move last week to give hundreds of billions of euros in cheap loans to under-pressure lenders was seen as a double-edged sword as it gave a lifeline but also exposed the region’s massive fiscal problems.

On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 3.6 percent to end the week at 12,294.00 points. The tech-focused Nasdaq rose 2.5 percent for the week and the broader S&P 500 added 3.7 percent.

The rise came after weekly claims for US unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level since April 2008, while data from Germany also set a more positive tone.

Germany’s Ifo business sentiment index defied analysts’ expectations and rose to 107.2 points in December from 106.6 in November.

On currency markets, the dollar barely moved at 77.99 yen in Asian trade Monday, little changed from 78.06 yen in New York Friday.

The euro was at $1.3062 and 101.86 yen, also little changed from $1.3040 and 101.86 yen in New York Friday.

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