HONG KONG - Asian markets were mixed on Monday, as bargain-hunting was offset by lingering geopolitical concerns after last week's downing of a Malaysian airliner in Ukraine.
With traders still on edge after Thursday's tragedy, which the United States has said was caused by pro-Russian rebels; the dollar retreated against the safe-haven yen. Sydney added 0.15 per cent, or 8.2 points, to close at 5,539.9 and Seoul was marginally lower, dipping 0.92 points to 2,018.50. Shanghai lost 0.22 per cent, or 4.59 points, to end at 2,054.48 while Hong Kong shed 0.29 per cent, or 67.65 points, to 23,387.14.
Tokyo was closed for a public holiday. With few catalysts to drive business, investors took the opportunity in early trade to pick up cheap shares after a broad sell-off Friday in response to the Malaysia Airlines plane crash, which fanned already high tensions about Ukraine. However, the early advances were pared by worries the months-long crisis has moved into another and possibly more dangerous phase.
With the United States blaming Moscow over the downing of MH17, Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to cooperate in an investigation into the tragedy which took almost 300 lives. Also depressing sentiment was news of Israel's ground offensive in Gaza, fuelling concerns about the tinderbox region. In New York on Friday the three main indexes bounced back from the previous day's falls, with bargain-buying backed up by strong earnings from Google.
The Dow rose 0.73 per cent, the S&P 500 jumped 1.03 per cent and the Nasdaq rallied 1.57 per cent. However, despite the equity advances investors were still buying into the lower-risk yen as a hedge against political uncertainty. The dollar bought 101.24 yen against 101.36 yen on Friday in New York, while the euro fetched 136.90 yen compared with 137.12 yen. The single currency was at $1.3523 compared with $1.3525.
On oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for August delivery was down 41 cents at $102.72 in afternoon trade, a day before the contract expires. Brent crude for September fell 32 cents to $106.92. Gold prices edged up to $1,313.80 by 0800 GMT compared with $1,312.33 late Friday.
-- Taipei added 0.43 per cent, or 40.00 points, to 9,440.97.
Hon Hai rose 2.79 per cent to Tw$110.5 while smartphone maker HTC fell 1.43 per cent to Tw$138.0.
-- Wellington rose 0.35 per cent, or 17.97 points, to 5,126.90.
Fletcher Building was up 0.11 per cent at NZ$8.90 and Trade Me gained 0.85 per cent to close at NZ$3.57.
-- Manila climbed 0.32 per cent, or 21.81 points, to 6,874.88.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. rose 0.40 per cent to 3,040 pesos while Alliance Global Group slipped 1.61 per cent to 27.55 pesos.