Asia stocks narrowly mixed as earnings eyed

HONG KONG: Asian stock markets fluctuated Tuesday, pausing from a powerful two-week rally fueled by optimism about company earnings.

Markets were narrowly mixed, with Tokyo's benchmark index weakening after a nine-day winning streak as investors awaited second-quarter results from Japan's Nissan, Sony and mega lender Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group later in the week. Oil prices were steady above $68 a barrel.

Investors found little guidance from Wall Street, where stocks finished slightly higher after trading down for most of the session, caught between disappointing earnings from major U.S. companies and a spike in homes sales last month that suggested the recession is easing.

Steady trade in Asia reflected that many investors were weighing whether the markets were nearing a short-term peak or have more room to rally, said Jackson Wong, investment manager at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong

"Investors in the region are playing it cautious," Wong said. "On one hand they do not want to get out of the market. On the other hand, they know the rally is near resistance levels."

Tokyo's 225 stock average shed 20.46, or 0.2 percent, to 10,068.20. Among other losing bourses, Shanghai's index dropped 0.1 percent and India's Sensex fell 0.5 percent.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng trimmed its losses to add 141.09, or 0.7 percent, to 20,392.71.

South Korea's Kospi was down 0.1 percent while Australia's index climbed 0.6 percent.

Overnight in the U.S., a volatile Dow rose 15.27, or 0.2 percent, to 9,108.51, its first finish above the 9,100 mark since Nov. 5. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.92, or 0.3 percent, to 982.18, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 1.93, or 0.1 percent, to 1,967.89.

Stock futures pointed to slight losses Tuesday on Wall Street. Dow futures were off 8, or 0.1 percent, at 9,062 and S&P futures were down 1.2, or 0.1 percent, at 978.70.

Oil prices were modestly higher in Asia, with benchmark crude for September delivery up 11 cents to $68.49 a barrel. On Monday, the contract rose 33 cents.

The dollar weakened to 95.03 yen from 95.18 yen. The euro was higher at $1.4263 from $1.4241.