Asian stocks mixed in light trading ahead of New Year

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TOKYO (AP) — Shares are mixed in Asia as the last week of trading for the year began Tuesday after most markets were closed for Christmas. Most benchmarks stayed in a narrow range.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 was nearly flat at 19,407.77 and the Kospi of South Korea rose 0.2 percent to 2,041.66. The Shanghai Composite index was nearly flat at 3,121.67. Markets in Southeast Asia were mixed. Hong Kong and Australia were closed for Boxing Day.

TOSHIBA'S TRIBULATION: Shares in electronics and energy giant Toshiba Corp. fell 13 percent after the company acknowledged news reports saying it could record a loss "in the order of hundreds of billions of yen" (billions of dollars) related to a revaluation that may reduce the asset value of CB&I Stone & Webster, Inc., which its unit Westinghouse Electric Co. bought in late 2015. Tokyo-based Toshiba also is embroiled in a scandal over disclosures that company officials doctored accounting books for years after setting unrealistic earnings targets.

JAPAN DATA: Japan's unemployment rate was at a low 3.1 percent in November and the key measure of inflation, excluding volatile fresh foods, fell 0.4 percent from the year before, the ninth straight month of declines. Household spending fell 1.5 percent despite an increase in incomes.

ANALYST'S PERSPECTIVE: "We expect Japan's economy to grow by 1 percent next year. Given how low potential growth is, this should be enough to drive a further decline in spare capacity and to add to price pressures. The Bank of Japan is therefore unlikely to introduce further easing. But we nonetheless forecast further weakness in the yen and resulting gains for the Nikkei," Marcel Thieliant and Mark Williams of Capital Economics said in a commentary.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks inched higher before Christmas on gains in health care companies. The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 14.93 points, or 0.1 percent, to 19,933.81. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 2.83 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,263.79. The Nasdaq composite rose 15.27 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,462.69. By midday Tuesday in Asia, Dow futures were down 0.05 percent and S&P futures shed 0.03 percent.

CURRENCY: The dollar rose to 117.38 yen from 117.18 yen on Monday. The euro fell $1.0439 from $1.0453.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 11 cents to $53.13 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil markets were closed Monday for the holiday. On Friday, benchmark U.S. crude gained 7 cents to close at $53.02. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 11 cents on Friday to close at $55.16 in London.

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