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Asian Shares Mixed Ahead Of Brexit Delay Vote

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Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Thursday after British lawmakers rejected a possible no-deal Brexit, forcing Prime Minister Theresa May to give members of parliament another chance to vote on delaying Brexit.

Chinese data signaled further weakness in the world's second biggest economy but at the same time raised hopes for more policy support.

Chinese shares fell as mixed economic readings rekindled growth worries. China's Shanghai Composite Index slumped 36.27 points or 1.2 percent to 2,990.68, although Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index finished 43.93 points or 0.2 percent higher at 28,851.39.

China's industrial output grew an annual 5.3 percent in the first two months of 2019, a government report showed. This marked the slowest pace of growth in 17 years and fell short of expectations for an increase of 5.5 percent.

At the same time, retail sales climbed 8.2 percent and fixed asset investment rose 6.1 percent in the same period, beating expectations.

Japanese shares ended slightly lower after a slew of Chinese data proved to be a mixed bag. The Nikkei 225 Index gave up early gains to end marginally lower at 21,287.02. The broader Topix slipped 0.2 percent to 1,588.29.

Shipping firms paced the declines, with Kawasaki Kisen tumbling 3.1 percent. Semiconductor equipment maker Samco Inc. plunged 10.5 percent after cutting its net profit forecast.

On the other hand, index heavyweight SoftBank Group gained 1.3 percent after reports that a consortium that includes SoftBank is in late-stage talks to invest $1 billion or more in the self-driving vehicle unit of Uber Technologies Inc's.

Australian markets eked out modest gains as higher commodity prices helped lift resource stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 18.40 points or 0.3 percent to 6,179.60, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 20.80 points or 0.3 percent at 6,266.80.

Mining heavyweight BHP advanced 0.8 percent and Rio Tinto climbed 1 percent after zinc prices hit an eight-month high on the London Metal Exchange (LME).

Energy stocks Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search, Origin Energy and Santos jumped 1-2 percent as Brent crude oil prices hit their highest level so far this year on data showing an unexpected drop in U.S. crude inventories.

Meanwhile, Commonwealth Bank edged down 0.2 percent after it shelved preparations to float its wealth management, mortgage broking, and financial planning businesses. The other three big banks fell between 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent.

Seoul stocks gained ground after U.K. lawmakers rejected a no-deal Brexit, paving the way for a vote that could delay Brexit till the end of June.

The benchmark Kospi rose 7.27 points or 0.3 percent to 2,155.68, led by refiners SK Innovation and S-Oil. Automakers tumbled, with Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors and Hyundai Mobis losing 1-3 percent.

New Zealand shares ended on a firm note, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index closing up by 47.81 points or 0.5 percent at 9,435.50, helped by consumer staple stocks.

Overnight, U.S. stocks fluctuated before ending higher as economic reports showed little inflation pressure and rising business investment.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.6 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 both climbed around 0.7 percent to reach their best closing levels in five and four months, respectively.

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