Asian traders await a speech from Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen
Hong Kong - AFP
Hong Kong was the stand-out stock market Thursday after five days of losses while Asian traders await a speech from Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen hoping for clues about US interest rates.
Australia's dollar put on more than one percent against the greenback thanks to a surprise drop in the country's jobless rate but a recent rally in some other emerging currencies petered out.
The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong surged more than two percent, having given up three percent in the past five outings.
Internet giant and market heavyweight Tencent led the charge -- rising 2.3 percent -- after posting record profits for July-September. And IT firm Lenovo surged 5.8 percent on better-than-forecast earnings.
Most Chinese firms listed in the city were also up, with the index that tracks such firms climbing for the first time in four days on hopes Beijing will introduce new measures to boost the mainland economy.
Traders will be keeping a close watch on Yellen's comments later Thursday as bets on a December rate hike increase following Friday's forecast-beating US jobs report that reinforced recent data showing the world's biggest economy is picking up.
However, analysts said markets are uneven as the Fed mulls a lift-off, while other central banks -- particularly in Europe, China and Japan -- hint at further easing to kickstart growth at home.
"Divergence in monetary policy is creating an even choppier investment environment," Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist in Sydney at CMC Markets, said.
"The futures market is indicating that it's more likely than not that we'll see the Fed raise rates in December. Expectations of further easing in China are high because there's been a demonstrated responsiveness among policy makers to the weakening economy."
- Aussie rallies -
While crude edged up, it was unable to recover Wednesday's losses that came in response to figures showing a surge in US stockpiles.
A weekly report by the American Petroleum Institute late Tuesday showed US commercial inventories jumped more than six million barrels.
The US Department of Energy's closely watched reserves data is due later in the day and expectations are for a further increase in supplies there, too.
In Thursday trade US benchmark West Texas Intermediate rose 56 US cents after losing $1.28 the day before, while Brent added 44 cents after diving $1.63. Both contracts are around two-month lows.
The softening prices weighed on energy firms from Santos and Origin in Sydney, to Shanghai-listed PetroChina and Sinopec.
Australian investors were given a surprise boost by news that unemployment had fallen to 5.9 percent in October, easing pressure on the country's central bank to cut interest rates as the economy struggles.
Forecasts had been for the rate to remain steady at 6.2 percent.
The news put a light under the Australian dollar, which jumped 1.1 percent against its US counterpart.
For other emerging market currencies, Indonesia's rupiah and the Singapore dollar advanced after being hammered soon after the US jobs figures. But the South Korean won and Malaysia's ringgit edged slightly lower after tacking up healthy gains in the previous two days.
In Europe, London fell 0.19 percent soon after the open while Frankfurt dipped 0.11 percent and Paris shed 0.23 percent.
Key figures around 0830 GMT
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 19,697.77 (close)
Shanghai - composite: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,632.90 (close)
Hong Kong: UP 2.4 percent at 22,888.92 (close)
Sydney - S&P/ASX200: FLAT at 5,125.7 (close)
Australian dollar/US dollar: UP to 71.37 US cents from 70.60 US cents
Euro/dollar: UP to $1.0745 from $1.0741 late Wednesday
Dollar/yen: UP to 122.94 yen from 122.84 yen late Wednesday