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Asian stock markets down but not out in Wednesday trading

Stock markets ended mostly lower in Asian trading Wednesday but suffered relatively mild losses compared with the drubbing on Wall Street overnight.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index, the Shanghai and Shenzhen composites and Singapore's Straits Times index posted modest gains of between 0.2% and 0.5%.

The rest of the markets in the Asia-Pacific region closed lower, but none was down as much as 1% — a fraction of the Dow Jones industrial average's 2.2% drop and the S&P 500's 1.8% decline in New York trading Tuesday.

Market watchers said the contrast could simply reflect the fact that Wall Street's steady strong gains in recent years leaves U.S. stocks more prone to sell-offs as investors try to anticipate when the American economic juggernaut will begin to lose steam.

Asian markets have been grappling with a risk-off environment for quite a long time but "life has been great for the U.S. market," noted Tai Hui, J.P. Morgan Asset Management (JPM)'s Hong Kong-based chief market strategist, Asia Pacific.

That has left markets in Asia less expensive and less crowded, said Mr. Hui. With the prospect of further Fed tightening and further easing by Chinese policy makers, J.P. Morgan is urging investors to pursue a much more internationally diversified approach for their investments, he said.