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Asian stocks fluctuate amid Europe fears

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.2 per cent to 9,065.73 after opening lower. South Korea's Kospi also opened lower before settling flat at 1,950.0.

Asian stocks swung between losses and gains on Thursday, as investors weighed climbing borrowing rates in Spain and political turmoil in Greece against upbeat results at Japanese carmaker Toyota.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.2 per cent to 9,065.73 after opening lower. South Korea's Kospi also opened lower before settling flat at 1,950.03. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up less than 0.1 per cent at 20,341.49.

But Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.4 per cent to 4,292.40 and benchmarks in mainland China and Taiwan also rose.

"The Eurozone crisis remains in the spotlight, keeping sentiment under pressure," strategists at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong wrote in a note to clients.

World markets have been roiled this week by political instability in Europe. Greece has been left without a government since elections on Sunday, adding to growing worries that it will drop out of the euro currency union or be forced out.

The turmoil shook markets in Spain, where the interest rate that the government must pay on benchmark 10-year bonds rose to an uncomfortably high level of 6.06 per cent. Rates of above 7 per cent are seen as unsustainable, and forced Greece, Ireland and Portugal to ask for bailouts.

Toyota Motor Corp rose 2.1 per cent, a day after the carmaker said quarterly profit more than quadrupled and it made an upbeat forecast as it recovers from a sales plunge caused by the tsunami in Japan last year.

On Wall Street on Wednesday, the Dow closed lower for the sixth day in a row, down 0.8 per cent at 12,835.06. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.7 per cent to 1,354.58 and the Nasdaq composite average Nasdaq dropped 0.4 per cent to 2,934.71.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 6 cents at $96.75 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 20 cents to finish at $96.81 per barrel in New York on Wednesday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2952 from $1.2945 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar rose to 79.73 Japanese yen from 79.68 yen.