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Asian Shares Mixed As Theresa May Survives No-confidence Vote


Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday as a strong start to the U.S. earnings season and hopes for progress on the Brexit front were partly offset by worries about U.S.-China trade relations.

The pound held steady after British Prime Minister Theresa May's government survived a vote of no confidence in parliament.

Safe-haven assets such as gold and the yen rose after the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. federal prosecutors are investigating Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies for allegedly stealing trade secrets from U.S. companies.

Chinese stocks ended lower as investors braced for GDP data due to be released next Monday. Growth worries resurfaced after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the country is facing a challenging environment.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 10.79 points or 0.4 percent to 2,559.64, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended down 146.47 points or 0.5 percent at 26,755.63.

Japanese shares reversed earlier gains to finish lower as automakers sagged on worries about increased U.S. tariffs.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index dipped 40.48 points or 0.20 percent to 20,402.27, while the broader Topix closed 0.4 percent higher at 1,543.20 on speculation the Bank of Japan may ramp up bond buying at next week's policy meeting.

Automakers fell after a Republican senator told reporters U.S. President Donald Trump is "inclined" to move ahead with tariffs on imported vehicles. Toyota Motor shed 0.8 percent and Honda Motor edged down slightly.

Banks and other financial firms closed higher, tracking overnight gains among their U.S. counterparts. Daiwa Securities gained 1.3 percent and Nomura Holdings jumped 4.1 percent.

Australian stocks hit over two-month highs after Wall Street's major indexes hit one-month highs overnight.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 14.90 points or 0.3 percent to 5,850.10, extending gains for the third straight session. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 16.10 points or 0.3 percent at 5,909.80.

Banks ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac rose between 0.3 percent and 0.7 percent, tracking overnight gains among their U.S. peers.

Diversified miner South32 rallied 3.6 percent after its second quarter coking coal output nearly doubled. BHP edged down 0.2 percent ahead of its second quarter production report due next week, while rival Rio Tinto, which will unveil its quarterly production figures on Friday, added 1 percent.

Whitehaven Coal climbed 3.7 percent after it achieved record quarterly output. Woodside Petroleum gained 0.7 percent as it reported a 43 percent jump in fourth quarter revenue.

AGL Energy dropped 2 percent after it revealed a problem with heavy-metal levels detected in coal ash from its Hunter Valley power stations.

On the economic front, official data showed that the number of home loan approvals fell by 0.9 percent in November. Economist expected a decline of 1.5 percent following the 2.2 percent jump in October.

Seoul stocks finished marginally higher as investors cheered strong earnings from Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.

New Zealand shares gained ground, with milk product makers leading the surge after China signaled more stimulus measures in the near term. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index climbed 50.37 points or 0.6 percent to 9,077.81. A2 Milk shares rallied 2.9 percent, while Synlait Milk advanced 2.5 percent.

Overnight, U.S. stocks rose for a second straight session, reflecting a positive reaction to upbeat earnings news from financial giants Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.

The Dow gained 0.6 percent and the S&P 500 edged up 0.2 percent to hit their highest levels in a month, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index rose 0.2 percent.

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