After staging a rally in Wednesday morning trading, most Asian markets gave up their gains by the close over fears about the health of the global banking and property system and a strengthening yen. Fears were spurred by worries about the writedowns Merrill Lynch ( MER) may be forced to take as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis. (And when Merrill did report, it pegged the writedown at a staggering $7.9 billion.) In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng ended the day flat, down 43 points, or 0.15%, to 29,333.53, after hitting 29,997.01 in early trading -- just shy of the recent 30,000 benchmark. In Japan, the Nikkei fared similarly, down 92 points, or 0.56%, after a day in the green, to 16,358.39. The Topix lost 6.69 points, or 0.4%, to 1563.86. The Korean Kospi slumped 14.6 points, or 0.75%, to 1,933. In China, however, the Shanghai Composite Index shrugged off the Merrill jitters, gaining 70 points, or 1.21%, to 5,843. "Markets will get a little weaker as this creates a little fear," says Ben Simpfendorfer, head of capital markets for RBS in Hong Kong. "There's not a lot of long-term visibility here. The real emphasis should be on global growth numbers like payroll data." Banks led the end of day declines, with China Citic Bank off 2% to 10.55 yuan in Shanghai, and HSBC ( HBC) down 0.75%, to HK$145.20 in Hong Kong.