By V. Phani Kumar, MarketWatch
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Asian markets were mixed Wednesday, with Japanese shares ending lower as exporters such as Canon Inc. reversed gains from the previous session, while Hong Kong and Australia were propped up by resource issues on stronger commodity prices.
The session was marked by sharp volatility, with indexes in Seoul, Singapore, Shanghai, and Mumbai swinging between positive and negative territories after Wall Street benchmarks ended mixed overnight.
"It is early days yet, but panic has subsided and markets are responding correspondingly," said Matt McKeith, head of equity dealing at First State Investments. "But in the longer run, we still have the recession and economic-slowdown issues.
"Global economic performance may take a hit from the credit situation, and that will ultimately come back into the market," he added.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 Average fell 0.3% to 12,706.63 and the broader Topix index fell 0.4% to 1,237.55.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index advanced 0.7% to 22,617.01, while the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index gained 1.1% to 11,860.22. India's Sensitive Index, or Sensex, slipped 0.5% to 16,138.36 in afternoon trading.
Both the Hang Seng and Sensex jumped more than 6% in the previous session.
China's Shanghai Composite lost 0.6% to 3,784.29, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.2% to 5,381.40, on top of the 3.7% advance Tuesday.
South Korea's Kospi inched up 0.3% to 1,679.67, while New Zealand's NZX 50 index slipped 0.1% to 3,425.45.
Singapore's Straits Times Index slipped 0.5% to 2,986.54, after straddling the psychologically important 3,000-point level through afternoon trading, while Taiwan's Weighted index gave up 0.3% to 8,768.02.
"This year emerging Asia will likely experience the first growth downturn since 2001. Global stresses will probably drive a divergent performance of the regional economies and markets," Citigroup wrote in a report.
However, "commodity and agricultural exporters and economies with greater fiscal flexibilities are more likely to maintain strong growth," it added.
Shares of Canon Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210242912/composite CAJ -1.31% /zigman2/quotes/207639533/delayed JP:7751 -0.80% lost 2.9% and Honda Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC -1.11% /zigman2/quotes/200490352/delayed JP:7267 -0.20% shed 0.7% in Tokyo, helped by the yen's early gains against the U.S. dollar.
Data released by the Ministry of Finance showed Japanese exports surged 8.7% in February from a year earlier, as shipments to Europe and Asia offset weaker demand from the U.S. Japan's trade surplus expanded a slower-than-expected 0.9% to 969.9 billion yen ($9.7 billion) on higher energy prices, which fueled a rise in energy imports.
The U.S. dollar rose to 100.06 yen late in Asian currency trading, after dropping below 100 yen earlier in the day. The greenback bought 100.05 yen in New York late Tuesday.