LONDON (CNNfn) - A mix of weak corporate earnings and sporadic selling sprees ahead of the fiscal year-end left Asia's markets sagging at the finish Monday. Hong Kong shares eased more than 1 percent and Tokyo finished flat after a run-up in blue chip manufacturers fizzled.
In Hong Kong, stocks plummeted in the afternoon session following the release of poorer-than-expected interim results from a major property developer. The Hang Seng index slid sharply after New World Development reported a 71 percent drop in after-tax profit for the second half of 1998 compared with the year-earlier period.
The Hang Seng fell 114.84 points to 10,688.47 - a 1.06 percent drop.
The U.S. Federal Reserve meeting Tuesday will be closely watched for signs of the direction of U.S. monetary policy.
Meanwhile, in Tokyo the benchmark Nikkei 225 average finished virtually unchanged as investors took a breather from a strong run that has sent the index soaring well above its month low of 13,921 on March 2.
The Nikkei closed off 8.15 points, or 0.05 percent, at 16,008.84 after an early rally petered out and fresh economic data cast doubts on renewed optimism that Japan's economy is on the road to recovery.
Japanese industrial production fell 0.6 percent in February, on a seasonally adjusted basis, from a month earlier, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry reported. Analysts surveyed by Reuters had forecast, on average, a 0.6 percent rise.
On the corporate front, shares of Nissan Motor Corp. firmed in Tokyo after the Japanese automaker unveiled a $5.4 billion alliance Saturday with France's Renault (PRNO) that would create the world's fourth-largest carmaker. Under terms of the deal, Renault will take a 36.8 percent interest in the heavily indebted Nissan Motor.
Nissan shares ended 3 yen, or 0.65 percent higher, at 468 yen.
Australia's All Ordinaries fell 0.75 percent on the back of Friday's record close. The index closed 22.6 points lower, at 2,974.0. Among the distractions cited by traders was the Kosovo conflict, jitters over the Fed gathering and the shorter trading week due to the Easter holiday.
Singapore's Straits Times index shed 0.19 percent to end at 1,497.50, while Taiwan stocks closed down nearly 2 percent at 6,901.68.
Philippine stocks gave up 0.63 percent to finish at 2,009.26 points.
Jakarta shares dipped marginally to 392.682. In Kuala Lumpur the composite index ended barely in the plus column, up 0.2 percent at 500.16.
But Seoul shares lost nearly 1.5 percent to 601.07. Thai shares slumped nearly 1 percent as investors awaited details of the government's economic stimulus program, due out Tuesday. Bangkok's benchmark index ended 3.59 points lower at 363.32.
--from staff and wire reports