Asian Shares Mixed After Tepid US Data

Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Monday as weak U.S. data and signs of continuing downturn in the Chinese real estate market offset positive core machinery orders data from Japan. Investors also kept an eye on Greece after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he won't strike a deal with bailout lenders at any cost.

Chinese shares retreated, with builders and brokerages pacing the decliners, as weak housing data added to worries over a spate of new share listings. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index dropped 25.20 points or 0.58 percent to 4,283.49 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shed 231.03 points or 0.83 percent to 27,591.25 after climbing nearly 2 percent on Friday.

Home prices in majority of the Chinese cities continued to decline in April, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed. Compared to the previous month, prices of new houses fell in 48 out of the 70 cities. Average new home prices fell 6.1 percent from a year ago, extending declines for the eighth consecutive month.

Japanese shares closed at a near three-week high, led by financials after Dai-ichi Life announced higher shareholder payouts and government data showed Japan's core machinery orders rose 2.9 percent in March from the previous month, rising for the first time in months in a sign of pick-up in capital spending. The headline figure beat forecasts for an increase of 1.5 percent following the downwardly revised 1.4 percent decline in February.

The benchmark Nikkei average gained 157.35 points or 0.80 percent to end at 19,890.27, its highest level since April 28, with sentiment supported by a weaker yen. The broader Topix index advanced 1.2 percent to close at 1,626.66. Dai-ichi Life Insurance soared 10.7 percent after the company announced plans to raise dividend payments. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Japan's largest bank, rallied 4.6 percent, Mizuho Finanical climbed 4.7 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group rose 3.5 percent on expectations for a revival in lending.

Honda Motor closed 1.4 percent higher after launching its new, compact Honda Shuttle. SoftBank, which holds a 32.59 percent stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, added a percent. French luxury goods company Kering SA, parent company of Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other luxury brands, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. against Alibaba Group for aiding the sales of counterfeit versions of its products.

Hitachi advanced 1.5 percent after reportedly bagging a railway-signal contract worth about 10 billion yen. Toshiba gained 1.1 percent as the company expanded its probe of internal accounting irregularities to include Westinghouse Electric and all of its other subsidiaries. Sharp Corp slumped 9 percent, extending Friday's losses, after the struggling electronics giant announced new restructuring measures.

Australian shares fell to end near a one-week low, dragged by banks and hefty losses in market bellwether BHP Billiton after the split from South 32. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 76.3 points or 1.33 percent to finish at 5,659.2, its lowest level since May 11. The big four banks fell between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent on concerns about a potential housing bubble in Sydney and Melbourne. BHP Billiton plunged 7.3 percent as shares of its spin-off unit South 32 made its market debut in Perth.

Rio Tinto dropped 1.1 percent on reports the company is exploring the sale of its Pacific Aluminium business once again, in a potential deal worth A$1 billion. Smaller rival Fortescue Metals ended little changed and BC Iron soared 7 percent after Prime Minister Tony Abbott reportedly threw his support behind a push for an inquiry into the iron ore industry. Gold miner Newcrest Mining rose 0.9 percent and Evolution Mining rallied 3 percent. Gold held steady to hover near a three-month high in Asian deals on expectations the Federal Reserve would not be in a hurry to raise interest rates.

In the oil space, Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search and Santos shed 1-3 percent. After falling for a third straight session on Friday, oil prices rose in Asian deals, supported by concerns that tensions in Yemen and Iraq could disrupt production in the crude-rich Middle East. Agribusiness firm Elders jumped 5.4 percent after posting strong first-half results. On the economic front, new motor vehicle sales in Australia slipped 1.5 percent in April from the previous month, official figures showed, after rising 0.5 percent in March.

Seoul shares ended modestly higher on foreign fund buying after showing little movement for most part of the day. The benchmark Kospi average closed up 7.22 points or 0.34 percent at 2,113.72. LG Chem gained 0.9 percent after it signed a deal with Great Wall Motor to strengthen its footprint in China. Hyundai Motor, South Korea's largest automaker, dropped 0.6 percent and market heavyweight Samsung Electronics slid half a percent.

New Zealand shares rose, with high-yielding stocks pacing the gainers. The benchmark NZX-50 index gained 12.33 points or 0.21 percent to close at 5,772.71. Genesis and Contact Energy both rose about 1.1 percent each and Mighty Rive Power advanced 1.4 percent, while Meridian Energy fell 1.3 percent ahead of its upcoming installment payment.

Construction firm Fletcher Building added 1.3 percent and casino operator SkyCity Entertainment Group rose 0.7 percent as the kiwi dollar weakened against its Australian counterpart. The government stepped up measures to curb Auckland's bubbling housing market, stoking speculation the Reserve Bank of New Zealand will likely cut its official cash rate at the June 11 meeting.

In economic releases, activity in New Zealand's services sector continued to expand in April, albeit at a slower pace, the latest survey from Business NZ revealed with a PMI score of 56.5, down from 57.6 in March.

India's Sensex was rising 0.7 percent on renewed hopes that the Reserve Bank of India may slash interest rates in the upcoming monetary policy review on June 2.

Elsewhere, the benchmark indexes in Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan were up between 0.2 percent and 0.6 percent. Singapore's Straits Times index was down 0.1 percent despite data showing an unexpected rise in exports in April.

U.S. stocks ended narrowly mixed showing little change on Friday even as the small moves helped the S&P 500 crawl to a fresh record high for the second straight session. Economic reports were disappointing, with a gauge of consumer sentiment falling to a seven-month low and industrial production falling for a fifth straight month, adding to concerns over the strength of the economic recovery. Factory activity in New York increased slightly in May, but not by as much as analysts had hoped for, pushing down the dollar and bond yields.

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