Asia Mixed, Japan Flat on Global Risk

Japanese stocks ended nearly flat for a second day on Thursday as investors became cautious ahead of global risk events such as the first-round of French presidential elections at the weekend and mounting tensions over North Korea.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan shaved off 1.71 points to 18,430.49,

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index recovered 231.1 points, or 1%, to 24,056.98

Mining stocks Inpex Corp and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co underperformed, falling 1.3% and 1.7%, respectively, after oil fell to a two-week low on Wednesday before recovering in Thursday's Asian trade.

Gainers included chip makers after Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan said that producers of flat-panel-display equipment posted 55.86 billion yen in orders in March and a book-to-bill ratio of 1.40, up 36.5% from the previous month.

Tokyo Electron Ltd rose 0.8% and Advantest Corp jumped 4.5%

On the economic front, Japan reported that March exports rose 12% on year, against a 6.7% increase projected. This is the fourth consecutive month of gains for Japanese exports

The U.S. dollar was also slightly stronger against the yen, trading higher at 108.9 compared to the 108.4 handle seen yesterday.

In corporate news, Rio Tinto reported that iron ore production fell 3% on year but did not change its full-year guidance. Rio Tinto shares jumped 1% in early trade but closed 0.4% lower at A$58.67 a stock.

CHINA

The CSI 300 in Shanghai regained 16.01 points, or 0.5%, to 3,462.09

A spokeswoman for China's forex regulator said on Wednesday that cross-border capital flows had eased in Q1 this year.

In other markets

In Taiwan, the Taiex index dropped 7.25 points, or 0.1%, to 9,632.69

The Kospi Index in Korea picked up 10.75 points, or 0.5%, to 2,149.15

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index restocked 11.6 points, or 0.4%, to 3,137.88

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 fell 30.46 points, or 0.4%, to 7,188.05

In Australia, the ASX 200 index picked up 17.38 points, or 0.3%, to 5,821.39