Asian markets closed mixed with a downward bias on Friday, as investors continued to consolidate in the aftermath of a regional plunge and turbulent mid-week trading.
Dealers said investor confidence had improved since the chaotic scenes that dominated Tokyo trading, forcing the market there to close early, abated, leaving most to focus on other local and international issues.
Rising oil prices on the back of tensions in Iran and Nigeria, and threats by al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden of possible further strikes against the US were the most prominent factors weighing on trading.
This resulted in a cautious sentiment, although dealers said that most investors believed the region's economic fundamentals remained sound and any losses appeared limited.
Tokyo closed flat as investigations got underway into allegations of fraud at Internet firm Livedoor, which had prompted Wednesday's sharp sell down. Hong Kong and Manila were also little changed.
Sydney, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur registered modest gains. Seoul bucked its recent trend of tracking Tokyo, and closed 2.64 percent lower on profit taking.
In Taipei share prices closed 0.39 percent lower in thin trading after early gains driven by Wall Street's overnight rebound gave way to caution ahead of the long Lunar New Year holiday break.
Dealers said semiconductor stocks initially tracked their US counterparts higher, but then lost steam as investors trimmed positions after a volatile week.
The TAIEX lost 25.66 points at 6,486.63 on turnover of NT$81.01 billion (US$2.52 billion).
"Local technology stocks in early trade were encouraged by the rally on Wall Street but investors [later] preferred the sidelines, with just a few days left before the Lunar New Year holidays," said Kevin Chung (鐘國忠), deputy manager at Jih Sun Securities Investment Consulting Co Ltd (日盛投顧).
* Taipei: TAIEX down 0.39 percent or 25.66 points to 6,486.63
* Tokyo: NIKKEI-225 up 0.41 points to 15,696.69
* Seoul: KOSPI down 2.64 percent or 35.86 points to 1,324.78
* Hong Kong : Hang Seng Index down 8.34 points to 15,662.08
Investors were also reluctant to adopt an aggressive stance ahead of an expected cabinet reshuffle, with higher oil prices and the corporate results season additional reasons for a non-committal stance.
Japanese share prices closed flat as investors took a cautious stance ahead of the weekend and following recent market chaos sparked by probe into Internet firm Livedoor.
The NIKKEI-225 index added just 0.41 points to end at 15,696.69, with trading still shortened by half an hour as an emergency measure to prevent heavy volumes crippling the trading system.
Markets had opened higher as gains on US markets helped Tokyo stocks extend a recovery after Wednesday's chaos that forced the bourse to close early for the first time ever as a flood of sell orders swamped the system.
But dealers turned cautious ahead of the weekend, as fresh allegations of fraudulent activities at Livedoor emerged in the press.
For the week, the NIKKEI 225 index shed 4.6 percent while the TOPIX lost 3.4 percent.
In Seoul share prices closed sharply lower in volatile trading, falling 2.64 percent on heavy profit-taking after a very choppy week.
Dealers said generally lackluster Asian stocks provided no support for a market that has been badly hit by the turbulence in Tokyo following an investigation into alleged irregularities at an Internet firm favoured by investors.
The KOSPI index fell 35.86 points to 1,324.78.
Hong Kong share prices closed flat in cautious trading, with investors keeping a wary eye on oil prices which surged past US$67 a barrel in Asian trading.