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Asian Shares End Flat To Higher

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Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Thursday after U.S. stocks fluctuated before ending higher overnight, reflecting a positive reaction to quarterly results from the likes of IBM, United Technologies and Procter & Gamble.

Nevertheless, the upside remained capped by fears over slackening global growth, a U.S. government shutdown and the U.S.-China trade conflict.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit the United States next week for the next round of trade negotiations with Washington following high-level talks between the world's two largest economies at the start of the year.

China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 10.69 points or 0.4 percent to 2,591.69, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended up 112.78 points or 0.4 percent at 27,120.98.

Meanwhile, Japanese shares turned in a mixed performance after data showed the Japanese manufacturing sector slipped into stagnation in January. The manufacturing PMI stood at 50.0, down from 52.6 in December.

Worries about global economic growth and uncertainty over U.S.-China trade talks also kept investors nervous.

The Nikkei 225 Index edged down 19.09 points or 0.1 percent to 20,574.63, while the broader Topix rose 5.57 points or 0.4 percent to 1,552.60.

Tech stocks finished higher, with Advantest rising 6.2 percent and Tokyo Electron climbing 4.5 percent.

Australian markets moved modestly higher, with energy stocks leading the advance after Santos posted record quarterly revenue and said it expects 2019 production to rise by up to 32 percent.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 22.00 points or 0.4 percent to 5,865.70, and the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 21.80 points or 0.4 percent at 5,930.50.

Santos jumped 3.9 percent, while rivals Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search and Origin Energy climbed around 2 percent. Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto ended little changed, hurt by soft iron ore prices.

OZ Minerals rallied 3.4 percent despite the company reporting a decline in fourth-quarter copper production.

On the other hand, gold miners extended losses for the fourth straight session. Evolution slumped 4.1 percent after it reported a decrease in gold production for the December quarter. Regis Resources dropped 2.6 percent and Northern Star plunged 5.4 percent.

Coles Group lost 1.1 percent. The supermarket giant said it would make a pre-tax provision of A$146 million in its first-half results for a distribution network overhaul that will cut costs as well as jobs.

In economic news, the jobless rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 5.0 percent in December. That was below expectations for 5.1 percent, which would have been unchanged from November. The Australian economy added 21,600 jobs last month, beating forecasts for the addition of 18,000.

Seoul stocks rose notably as investors took cues from strong U.S. earnings. The benchmark Kospi climbed 17.25 points or 0.8 percent to 2,145.03, reaching a three-month high, led by financial and technology stocks.

Tech stocks jumped after chip machine manufacturer ASML Holdings said there is no let-up in Chinese semiconductor demand. Samsung Electronics gained 2.5 percent to snap a two-day losing streak, while SK Hynix soared 5.5 percent.

Brokerage MiraeAsset Daewoo Securities jumped 4.8 percent on news that the government is considering scrapping the securities transaction tax.

South Korea's central bank kept its key interest rate unchanged today but cut its growth forecasts for 2019 amid signs of a global slowdown and heightening economic uncertainty over trade tensions.

New Zealand shares ended little changed, with the benchmark Kospi finishing up nearly 3 points at 9,108.91.

The Taiwan Weighted Index rose 0.3 percent even as data showed the country's industrial output fell in December, led by a slump in manufacturing. Industrial output fell 1.2 percent year-on-year in December after a 2.4 percent jump in November. India's Sensex was little changed in lackluster trade.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.7 percent on Wednesday, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite inched up 0.1 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.2 percent.

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