By Myra P. Saefong, Shri Navaratnam and Kirsty Green
TOKYO (MarketWatch) -- Asian markets finished Monday on a mixed note, with major indexes posting modest moves in pre-holiday trade, as concern about further property-market-cooling measures weighed on Hong Kong but strength in oil shares supported the Japanese market.
"We would expect the remainder of the week to see similar, small moves in Asian markets," said Richard Hastings, consumer strategist at Global Hunter Securities.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index closed 1.1% lower and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.3%.
South Korea's Kospi Composite lost 0.2%, and New Zealand's NZX-50 finished down 0.1%.
But Japan's Nikkei 225 and Taiwan's main index each added 0.4% and China's Shanghai Composite climbed 0.3%.
Among other regional markets, Philippine shares closed up 0.1%. In late trade, Singapore's Straits Times Index was 0.2% lower and India's Sensex lost 0.4%.
Shares in Hong Kong slipped as concerns that the Chinese government may take further measures to cool the property market continued to weigh on mainland property developers and banking stocks. This followed the Chinese government's announcement of a new rule last week requiring property developers to make a minimum down payment of 50% on land purchases.
HSBC Holdings /zigman2/quotes/202687335/delayed HK:5 +0.32% /zigman2/quotes/202924460/composite HBCYF -0.08% closed down 1.1%, China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205731176/delayed HK:688 +11.31% /zigman2/quotes/210412581/composite CAOVF +33.16% fell 1% and China Construction Bank /zigman2/quotes/208974133/delayed HK:939 +0.42% /zigman2/quotes/209484779/composite CICHF -4.21% ended 1.3% lower in Hong Kong.
Hang Lung Properties /zigman2/quotes/200230831/delayed HK:101 +4.02% /zigman2/quotes/204283712/composite HLPPF +9.88% fell 3.2% and Wharf (Holdings) Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202854264/delayed HK:4 +1.79% /zigman2/quotes/209480994/composite WARFF -19.95% dropped 7.4%. "It is still likely that Beijing may adopt further measures to curtail property price rises, especially on speculation activities," said Guosen Securities analyst Wang Junqing.
But broad strength in mainland China helped lift Poly Real Estate /zigman2/quotes/201864015/delayed CN:600048 +3.13% by 1.2% in Shanghai and China Vanke by 1.2% in Shenzhen after hefty declines on Friday.
Asian markets had weakened last week amid concern about Beijing's property-cooling measures, but also due to "renewed global crisis fears prompted by the sovereign downgrade of Greece and warnings about potential future downgrades of Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.," said Martin Hennecke, associate director at Tyche Group Ltd. in Hong Kong. "This sovereign debt crisis is ... only getting started and this clearly warrants caution for all investors, in all markets."
Even so, the Asian stock market "may not be the worst place to have exposure to" -- particularly given China's undervaluation of the yuan, the strength of the economy, low sovereign debt and low budget deficit of the country, Hennecke said.
In Australia, the market ended lower after finding earlier support from strength in resource stocks. Traders "seemed happy to push the market a bit higher on the back of reasonable leads from the U.S. session, but momentum waned in the afternoon and sellers took control" ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays, Cameron Peacock, a market analyst at IG Markets in Melbourne, said in a note to clients.
BHP Billiton /zigman2/quotes/208108397/composite BHP +1.63% /zigman2/quotes/201448516/delayed AU:BHP +2.70% closed up 0.9% and Newcrest Mining /zigman2/quotes/203840223/delayed AU:NCM +0.75% /zigman2/quotes/206026738/composite NCMGF +2.06% rose 1.8%. "Broadly speaking, the miners, both the diversified and the pure plays, enjoyed decent sessions," said Mr. Peacock.
But financials gave up earlier gains to finish mainly lower. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group /zigman2/quotes/205482049/delayed AU:ANZ +0.21% /zigman2/quotes/204542251/composite ANEWF -0.19% lost 1.8% and Commonwealth Bank of Australia /zigman2/quotes/200638713/delayed AU:CBA -0.35% /zigman2/quotes/207018701/composite CBAUF -1.44% fell 1.3%.
In Japan, resources and shipping stocks led an advance with buyers also encouraged by the yen's weakness against the dollar. "The market is no longer worried about sudden, sharp yen strengthening for the time being," with the Federal Reserve's view on the U.S. economy more upbeat and the Bank of Japan now looking more determined to tackle yen strengthening and deflation, said Tachibana Securities market analyst Kenichi Hirano.