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Asia: Stocks mixed ahead of Australia, India interest rate calls


[HONG KONG] Asian stocks were mixed in early trading, with Australia to make a decision on interest rates later Tuesday as slowing Chinese demand hits its resource-driven economy.

Tokyo eased 0.13 per cent and Hong Kong fell 0.48 per cent while Shanghai was up 0.14 per cent, Seoul was 0.21 per cent higher and Sydney put on 0.63 per cent.

Most analysts expect Australia to keep interest rates at their current record lows but the central bank governor has not ruled out the option of further easing.

Australia "will be more sensitive to fluctuations in China's performance than other countries," central bank governor Glenn Stevens said in June, as China receives most of the country's iron ore and coal exports.

A market rout since July has seen China announce a series of stabilising measures, including a crackdown on short-selling, a ban on major shareholders selling stocks and suspension of new share offerings.

India's central bank will also meet Tuesday to decide whether to cut its interest rate, with the government keen for a further snip.

The Reserve Bank of India has cut rates three times this year to aid India's economy, which outperformed China's for the first three months of 2015.

Factory output climbed to a six-month high in July on strong demand, a survey showed Monday, increasing to 52.7 points in July from 51.3 a month before.

A reading of more than 50 points suggests industrial expansion while anything below indicates contraction, according to the survey, which is a key barometer of economic health.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made reviving Asia's third-largest economy a priority since coming to power in May last year, introducing a number of reforms aimed at boosting demand and investment.

Asian markets appeared to be taking a breather ahead of a heavy week of US economic indicators. Data on Monday showed slightly weaker manufacturing activity and a modest gain in consumer spending.

Wall Street stocks fell on Monday with petroleum-linked equities retreating on a big drop in oil prices.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.52 per cent, while the broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.28 per cent.

The most eagerly anticipated release is Friday's jobs report for July, which could strengthen confidence the Federal Reserve will soon raise interest rates, perhaps even in September.

Greece's stock exchange, resuming trade after a five-week shutdown, immediately plunged around 20 per cent at the open before finishing down 16.23 per cent in the biggest single-day drop ever.

Japanese auto giant Toyota will meanwhile announce quarterly earnings after posting a record profit in its last fiscal year.

In Tokyo forex trade, the dollar was at 124.06 yen early Tuesday, up from 123.99 yen in New York late Monday and 124.05 yen in Tokyo on Monday.

The euro changed hands at US$1.0946 and 135.79 yen against US$1.0954 and 135.82 yen in US trade.

Crude oil remained below US$50 a barrel in Asian trade amid concern over a global supply glut, but US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for September rose 33 cents to US$45.50 while Brent crude for September increased 38 cents to US$49.90.

Gold fetched US$1,084.34 an ounce compared with US$1,092.73 on Monday.