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Asian stocks mostly lower on weak Chinese housing data; Tokyo rises on strong machinery orders

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BEIJING, China - Asian stock markets were mostly lower Monday after China reported a weak increase in housing prices.

Oil gained to stay above $102 a barrel after rising last week on concern about tensions in Ukraine.

China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 1 per cent to 2,006.21 after a weekend report that month-on-month gains in housing prices slowed to 0.1 per cent in April from March's 0.3 per cent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.6 per cent to 22,586.39. Seoul and Sydney also declined.

The Chinese government is trying to restrain surging housing costs with lending and other curbs. But any weakness in sales prompts fears of repercussions for other industries and possible debt problems if developers default on loans.

"There could be concerns about increased risks of a hard landing in the property market," said Mizuho Bank in a report.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 added 0. 1 per cent to 14,106.74 after March machinery orders soared 19.1 per cent from a year earlier, beating expectations.

"The surge in machinery orders in March suggests that the recovery in business investment remains on track," said Marcel Theliant of Capital Economics in a report.

Elsewhere, Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.8 per cent to 5,413.50 and Seoul's Kospi declined 0.1 per cent to 2,010.79. Taiwan's Taiex was flat at 8,889.68. Southeast Asian markets rose.

India's Sensex was 0.9 per cent higher, continuing to be boosted by the Bharatiya Janata Party's landslide election victory. The index surged as much as 6.1 per cent on Friday after preliminary election results indicated the opposition had won enough seats to govern without a coalition. The party's candidate for prime minister, Narendra Modi, had campaign on a pledge to revive economic growth.

Wall Street eked out a small gain Friday on better results from retailers and demand for telecommunications shares, rebounding from its worst daily performance in more than a month.

The S&P 500 gained 7.01 points, or 0.4 per cent, to close at 1,877.86. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 44.50 points, or 0.3 per cent, to end at 16,491.31. The Nasdaq composite index rose 21.30 points, or 0.5 per cent, to finish at 4,090.59.

U.S. crude oil for June delivery was up 18 cents to $102.20 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 52 cents Friday to close at $102.02 amid tensions in Ukraine and concern of possible disruption in Russian supplies.

In currency markets, the euro rose to $1.3705 from $1.3696 late Friday. The dollar rose to 101.56 yen from 101.54 yen.

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