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China markets close up as Japan, Australia near bear markets

Markets in Asia closed mostly lower Monday, on the back of another Wall Street sell-off Friday. Major indexes in Australia and Japan were nearing bear market territory, down over 18 percent from their 52-week closing highs.

Down Under, the Australian market finished the session in the red, with the main ASX 200 index closing down 34.10 points, or 0.70 percent, at 4,858.70, nearing bear market territory after falling 18.78 percent from its 52-week high of 5,982.69 set April 2015. Earlier, the index traded off as much as 1.80 percent. Energy sector weighed heavily on the index, down 3.36 percent.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 retraced some of its early losses to close down 191.54 points, or 1.12 percent, at 16,955.57 after falling as much as 2.39 percent earlier in the session. The index is off 18.74 percent from its 52-week high of 20,868.03, set June 2015.

South Korea's Kospi closed flat at 1,878.45, after initially slipping as much as 1.19 percent at market open.

Chinese markets wavered between gains and losses in a volatile session. The Shanghai composite closed up 13.51 points, or 0.47 percent, at 2,914.48 after falling as much as 1.84 percent earlier in the session. The index was off 43.58 percent from a 52-week high of 5,166.35 set June 2015 and off 11.58 percent since the first trading day of 2016.

The Shenzhen composite closed up 34.19 points, or 1.90 percent, at 1,830.32 after opening down 2 percent and the CSI300 index finished 11.99 points, or 0.38 percent, higher at 3,130.72. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was down 0.96 percent.

Elsewhere, Taiwan's Taiex closed up 49.17 points, or 0.63 percent, at 7,811.18, following an election over the weekend where the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive party (DPP) won a convincing victory in both presidential and parliamentary elections.

With China set to release its fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) numbers for 2015 on Tuesday, some analysts believe the recent rout in Chinese equities may worsen. China will also be releasing a slew of economic data Tuesday, including industrial production, fixed asset investment and retail sales.

Vishnu Varathan from Mizuho Bank said in a morning note, that if China misses its full-year economic growth guidance of 7 percent, which is widely expected, it will be "an excuse to sell."

He added that with China equities down 9 percent last week and a "devastating" 18-22 percent for the year, there's an "asymmetric" risk the GDP data Tuesday could spur "half empty tendencies" that could extend the China, and wider emerging market and commodity sell-off.

Tim Condon from ING said in a separate note that given the risk and uncertainties...