SINGAPORE (NewsRise) -- Asian stocks were little changed Monday as mounting expectations of a Federal Reserve rate increase next week and rising geopolitical tensions in the region subdued risk sentiment.
The Nikkei Asia300 Index ended 0.01% lower at 1,123.56 points. Technology heavyweights Samsung Electronics and Tencent Holdings were among major gainers on the index, along with India's Reliance Industries. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and China Mobile fell.
On Friday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen joined a chorus of policymakers to voice her support for a possible rate increase at the central bank's meeting next week if the economy continues to progress as expected. Markets await February's nonfarm payrolls data this Friday for further cues.
Early Monday, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan's coast, further rattling risk appetite.
South Korea's index slipped 0.8% to 1,203.01 points. Shares of Lotte Shopping ended half a percent after falling as much as 4% intraday following an announcement that four of its retail stores in China were closed after inspections by authorities.
Memory chipmaker SK Hynix jumped almost 5% after the company said Japan's Toshiba Corp informed it of its plans to sell stakes in its memory chip business.
The Nikkei Asia300 Taiwan Index gauge fell 0.5% to 1,222.67.
China's index rose 0.5% to 1,070.32, as sentiment improved after authorities, at the opening of the annual meeting of the nation's parliament, signaled continued fiscal support and neutral monetary policy that will likely spur growth in Asia's largest economy. Premier Li Keqiang set this year's growth target at about 6.5% or higher if possible, lower than last year's targeted range of 6.5% to 7% and final print of 6.7%.
Hong Kong's gauge slipped 0.1% to 1,074.41.
The Nikkei Asia300 Malaysia Index jumped 1% to 1,006.50 points, spurred by gains in lenders. CIMB Group Holdings jumped 4.6% to 5.46 ringgit, extending last week's near 3% rally, while Malayan Banking added 1%. Broadcaster Astro Malaysia Holdings rose 2.1% and mobile operator Axiata Group added 1.7%.
In the rest of Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Philippines' indexes added 0.6% and 0.8%, while Thailand's gauge shed 1% and Vietnam's index rose 0.3%.
The Nikkei Asia300 India Index advanced 0.5% to 1,113.46. Sentiment was supported by expectations the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party may win key elections in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Reliance Industries led gains with a near 4% jump amid ongoing optimism about its recently-launched telecoms venture.
--Kevin Lim and Nimesh Vora