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Asian Shares Move Mostly Lower In Cautious Trading

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Asian stocks ended mostly lower in cautious trading on Thursday, with tumbling oil prices, Hong Kong protests and uncertainty ahead of the upcoming G20 summit keeping investors on the sidelines.

Chinese shares ended roughly flat as Vice Premier Liu He called for more measures to support the economy and central bank data showed the country's bank lending increased in May. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index inched up 1.36 points or 0.1 percent to 2,910.74.

Banks extended 1.18 trillion yuan in new loans in May compared to 1.02 trillion yuan in April. However, this was below the forecast of 1.3 trillion yuan.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged down 13.75 points or 0.1 percent to 27,294.71 as investors kept a close eye on violent protests over an extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Japanese shares fell, dragged down by chipmakers after the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index dropped 2.3 percent on concerns of a slowdown in China.

The Nikkei 225 Index ended down 97.72 points or 0.5 percent at 21,032 ahead of the June settlement of Japanese stock futures and options on Friday. The broader Topix closed 0.8 percent lower at 1,541.50.

Advantest plunged 5 percent and Tokyo Electron slumped 4.2 percent after technology stocks accounted for much of the slide on Wall Street overnight.

Japan Display plummeted almost 12 percent as the struggling smartphone screen maker announced its decision to cut staff, reduce pay and take more write-offs.

Lender Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group fell 1.3 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group declined 1 percent as the prospects of a U.S. interest rate cut brightened.

Australian markets fluctuated before ending lower as tumbling oil prices hit energy stocks, offsetting gains in the financial sector.

Investors also reacted to the latest employment report flashing mixed signals. While employment gains exceeded expectations, the unemployment rate held steady at 5.2 percent, higher than the 5.1 percent forecast.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index ended marginally lower at 6,542.40, while the broader All Ordinaries Index dipped 0.2 percent to 6,619.10.

Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search, Origin Energy and Santos dropped 1-2 percent after oil prices slumped 4 percent overnight, pressured by an unexpected rise in U.S. crude inventories and concerns of a dimming outlook for global oil demand. Beach Energy shares plunged 5.7 percent.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto dropped around half a percent as copper prices slipped following disappointing data from China. Smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group tumbled 3 percent.

Conglomerate Wesfarmers plummeted 5.2 percent as it forecast falling annual earnings at its Kmart discount retail chain for the first time in a decade.

AfterPay Touch lost 12 percent as the federal financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC ordered the appointment of an external auditor to probe the company's compliance with money laundering and terrorism financing laws.

Meanwhile, banks ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac ended modestly higher on expectations of one more rate cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia given subdued inflation and weak economic growth.

Export-driven healthcare stocks also gained ground as the Aussie dollar nosedived after the release of jobs data. CSL rallied 2.3 percent and Cochlear added 0.6 percent.

Seoul stocks closed lower for the second straight day as investors fretted about the outlook for the chip-making sector. The benchmark Kospi gave up 5.60 points or 0.3 percent to close at 2,103.15. Samsung Electronics declined 1.9 percent and SK Hynix tumbled 3.4 percent.

New Zealand shares eked out modest gains, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index finishing up 18.67 points or 0.2 percent at 10,223.81.

Overnight, U.S. stocks fell for a second straight session as oil prices sank and government debt yields fell after the release of soft inflation data.

The Dow and the S&P 500 slid around 0.2 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite shed 0.4 percent.

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