ASIA MARKETS: Asian Stocks End Mostly Lower, But Rising Oil Prices Help Australia's Benchmark Rise

By Gregor Stuart Hunter Features Dow Jones Newswires

Tech weigh on Asian indexes

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Asian stocks pulled back Tuesday after broad gains on Monday as tech stocks weakened again and oil prices jumped.

The global Brent oil benchmark rose above $65 a barrel for the first time since June 2015 following news that a major European pipeline--used in calculating prices for Brent--will shut temporarily after a fracture was found. That sent Brent up 2% on Monday to its highest level since mid-2015 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/brent-oil-rises-to-fresh-212-year-high-as-north-sea-pipeline-outage-reverberates-2017-12-12).

That helped Australia's stock benchmark finish higher, with the S&P/ASX 200 ending up 0.2%.

But many other major Asian stock indexes declined, weighed by technology stocks. The sector has been weak in the past two weeks after being among the market's best performers this year.

Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index eased 0.4%, led by a 1.6% drop in heavyweight Tencent (0700.HK). Its decline, coming soon after the stock had fallen more than 15% within two weeks, followed a disclosure that a unit of the gaming giant is in talks to acquire a minority stake in supermarket operator Yonghui.

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Sunny Optical (2382.HK) ,a new Hang Seng component, skidded another 7.4% after the maker of camera modules and lenses used in smartphones said that Chinese mobile-phone shipments in November slid 21% from a year earlier.

Taiwan's tech-heavy Taiex fell 0.3% and Korea's Kospi Index closed 0.4% lower, dropping despite Samsung Electronics's (005930.SE) 0.6% climb.

The tech weakness and a 0.1% rebound for the yen versus the dollar to Yen113.45 helped push the Nikkei down 0.3%.

In New Zealand, a late adjustment higher allowed the stock benchmark to log a gain for the day-- enough for the 43rd record-high finish of 2017.

The regional selling also weighed on Chinese equities, even after credit data released late Monday showed bank lending increased more than expected in November, with some money leaving the shadow-banking sector.

The data showed that global investors' recent worries about a sharp slowdown in Chinese growth may have been premature, said Andy Rothman, investment strategist at fund manager Matthews Asia.

"One of the reasons people were getting nervous about the Chinese equities market is that they think that the selloff is induced by people who fear the government efforts to de-risk the financial sector is going to result in a significant credit tightening," he noted. "But there's no evidence of that happening yet. People are getting worked up about nothing here."

Meanwhile, market participants are awaiting cues from global central banks. The Federal Reserve's two-day meeting starts later Tuesday. On Wednesday, a quarter-point rate increase is expected to be announced. The European Central Bank and the Bank of England also meet this week.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 12, 2017 07:11 ET (12:11 GMT)