Asian shares mixed, focus on US

Asian markets were mixed on Thursday following a broadly positive lead from Wall Street, with traders monitoring talks in the United States aimed at averting the fiscal cliff.

The yen remained under pressure on expectations of monetary easing by the central bank, providing a fillip to Japanese equities.

Tokyo ended 0.81 percent, or 76.32 points, to 9,545.16, Sydney fell 0.25 percent, or 11.1 points, to close at 4,509.3 and Seoul gained 0.13 percent, or 2.58 points, to 1,949.62.

Hong Kong ended flat, dipping 21.10 points to end at 22,249.81.

Shanghai shares lost 0.13 percent, or 2.67 points, to 2,029.24 -- the index surged almost three percent on Wednesday after hitting a near four-year low earlier in the week.

In the United States the Institute for Supply Management said its monthly index on activity in the vast services sector rose to 54.7 in November, from 54.2 in October. Anything above 50 indicates growth.

It supports a consensus that the world's number one economy is gaining strength despite a set of downbeat manufacturing figures earlier this week.

In New York the Dow closed 0.64 percent higher while the S&P 500 rose 0.16 percent. But the Nasdaq fell 0.77 percent, hit by a big loss in tech giant Apple.

Eyes are on Washington, where Republicans and Democrats are locked in talks aimed at agreeing a deficit-cutting plan that will avert the fiscal cliff of huge tax hikes and spending cuts due to come into effect on January 1.

There is a broad agreement that if the $600 billion package comes in the country will likely tip into recession.

Some Republicans have already broken ranks with the party and said they could agree to raising tax rates for the wealthy -- an issue the leadership has said previously it will not budge on.

"Personally, I know we have to raise revenue; I don't really care which way we do it," Republican Senator Tom Coburn told MSNBC television.

Despite Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner saying no deal would be reached without tax rates going up, he did say: "I think there has been some progress and I think we're going to get there."

In forex trade the dollar held firm against the yen in Asia, changing hands at 82.46 yen, compared with 82.42 late in New York Wednesday.

The euro bought $1.3067 and 107.74 yen in afternoon Asian trade, compared with $1.3064 and 107.71 yen.

Dealers have been selling Japan's currency since opposition leader Shinzo Abe -- who is expected to become the next prime minister -- said last month he would push an aggressive monetary easing policy if he won December 16 polls.

On oil markets New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in January was up three cents to $87.91 a barrel in the afternoon, while Brent North Sea crude for January crawled down seven cents to $108.74.

Gold was at $1,693.03 at 1050 GMT compared with $1,701.65 late on Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei fell 0.34 percent, or 25.79 points, to 7,623.26.

Hon Hai Precision fell 0.53 percent to Tw$94.5 while TSMC was 0.31 percent lower at Tw$96.6.

-- Manila closed 1.34 percent higher, adding 75.92 points to 5,763.64.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone gained 2.76 percent to 2,610 pesos while Philippine Seven Corp, local operator of the 7-11 convenience stores, rose 8.33 percent to 78 pesos.

-- Wellington climbed 0.40 percent, or 16.11 points, to 4,023.36.

Air New Zealand climbed 2.34 percent to NZ$1.31, Contact Energy fell 0.75 percent to NZ$5.32 and Telecom added 0.44 percent to NZ$2.28.

-- Singapore's Straits Times Index closed up 0.07 percent, or 2.28 points, to 3,078.20.

Olam International was down 4.29 percent to Sg$1.45 while Jardine Cycle and Carriage gained 2.19 percent to Sg$48.16.

-- Jakarta ended up 5.77 points, or 0.13 percent, to 4,292.61.

Cigarette maker Gudang Garam rose 0.92 percent to 54,800 rupiah, telecommunications provider Telkom jumped 1.14 percent to 8,900 rupiah, while nickel and gold miner Aneka Tambang fell 2.38 percent to 1,230 rupiah.

-- Kuala Lumpur shares climbed 2.44 points, or 0.15 percent, to close at 1,616.23.

Malayan Banking gained 0.2 to 9.09 ringgit while Public Bank added 0.3 percent to 15.60. YTL Power International slid 1.3 percent to 1.51 ringgit.

-- Bangkok rose 9.82 points or 0.74 percent to close at 1,339.88.

Coal producer Banpu gained 1.29 percent to 392.00 baht while energy giant PTT Plc edged up 0.31 percent to 328.00 baht.

-- Mumbai's Sensex index rose 0.49 or 94.94 points to 19,486.80 points.

Tata Consultancy Services was down 1.14 percent at 1,282.40 rupees and Jet Airways was down 0.32 percent at 540.20 rupees.

--

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