LONDON (CNNfn) - Japanese blue chips ended Tuesday's session flat as investors stepped back from the market amid concerns about the strength of the yen. Most other markets in the region were also subdued following a mixed session on Wall Street.
The Nikkei 225 closed down just 5 points at 17,991.96, as the index stubbornly refused to break through the 18,000 level.
The market was unnerved as the dollar dipped below the ¥104 mark early in the session, but by the end of the day the dollar had moved to just under ¥105, up from ¥104.15 in New York late Monday.
A stronger yen versus the dollar makes Japanese exports, which are currently underpinning the domestic economy's recovery, more expensive.
Investors also looked to shore up their positions ahead of a market holiday Wednesday.
Among tech stocks NEC Corp. fell 5 percent as investors worried about the effects of mounting legal action against the electronics giant.
Sentiment across the region was not helped by a mixed session on Wall Street overnight. The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 81 points, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite hit a new record with a small gain.
Hong Kong reflected the mixed mood as the Hang Seng index closed just 13 points higher at 13,335.84. Traders said the news that Hong Kong had won the right to build Asia's second Disney theme park had no effect as it had been priced in weeks ago.
Investors stayed away from the market in a thin session ahead of the pricing of the Hong Kong government tracker fund, which will release some of the territory's US$26 billion equity portfolio back into the market, built up during its intervention in August 1998.
Sentiment was weak in Singapore as well, where the Straits Times index fell 0.8 percent to end at 2,057.22 as investors could find no reason to resume Monday's buying spree.
South Korea was one of only two markets to show any real strength. The Kospi closed 1.5 percent higher at 890.18. Overseas buying provided the main support for the index, as investors decided that the debt problems of Daewoo Group were no longer a major threat to the market.
Thailand's Set index surged in a late rally, inspired by banking stocks, to close 2.8 percent higher at 402.41.
Australia's All Ordinaries ended just 11 points higher at 2,906.9 in a thin session, curtailed by a lack of investor interest due to the country's premier horse race -- the Melbourne Cup.
Taiwan's blue chips ended with sizable losses, with the Weighted index down 1.2 percent as the second earthquake in six weeks hit the country. Although little damage was reported, traders worried that the tremor could hurt key semiconductor production.
Kuala Lumpur also suffered amid political uncertainty as traders worried about the timing of the general election. The Composite closed 0.6 percent lower at 727.03.
The JSX in Indonesia closed barely changed as it fell less than one point to end at 594.41.
Philippine's market was shut for a national holiday.
-- from staff and wire reports