Hong Kong: Asian markets were mixed on Friday as earlier gains from promising US jobs figures and hopes for upcoming Chinese economic data were offset by concerns over the global economy.
Japanese shares were also hit by a plunge in telecom giant Softbank after it emerged it is eyeing a near $13 billion deal to buy Sprint Nextel of the US, in what would be one of Japan’s biggest ever overseas deals.
Tokyo closed 0.15%, or 12.66 points, lower at 8,534.12, Sydney was flat, edging up 3.1 points to 4,486.6 and Seoul was also almost unchanged, nudging 0.17 points higher to 1,933.26.
Hong Kong added 0.65%, or 137.38 points, to 21,136.43 and Shanghai gained 0.10%, or 2.06 points, to close at 2,104.94.
Hopes for the US economy were given a boost on Thursday when the labor department said insurance benefits plunged unexpectedly last week to the lowest level since February 2008.
New jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, came in at 339,000 in the week to 6 October, far below the previous week’s 369,000 and the then four-week average of 375,500.
Those figures come on top of data last week showing the unemployment rate had fallen to 7.8% in September.
But on Wall Street the Dow fell 0.14% while the Nasdaq and S&P 500 were both flat.
Eyes are now on China, which will release on Saturday its trade figures for September, with investors hoping for an improvement on recent months that have revealed tumbling exports and imports as the demand in key markets dries up.
Beijing will on Monday release inflation data, followed by crucial gross domestic product figures.
Traders are also hoping leaders will soon introduce a fresh round of stimulus as a once-in-a-decade leadership transition approaches next month.
Investors are, however, still concerned after the International Monetary Fund this week slashed its growth forecasts across the world, citing the festering debt crisis in Europe, a stuttering recovery in the United States and a slowdown in China.
Adding to the worries is Spain’s continued refusal to ask for a bailout from international lenders despite the terrible state of its finances.
In Tokyo, broad advances stoked by a weak yen were held back by a 16.68% slump in Softbank, the country’s third biggest telecoms firm, after it said it was in talks to buy Sprint for $12.8 billion.
Kenji Shiomura, strategist at Daiwa Securities, said: “Investors were discouraged by the possibility that the company could be saddled with a heavy financial burden.
“Putting aside the point of whether the deal could be successful in the long run, the market is cautious.”
On forex markets the euro benefited from increased risk sentiment. In morning European trade it bought $1.2966, compared with $1.2926 late Thursday in New York, while it was also up at 101.74 yen from 101.25 yen.
The dollar gained to 78.45 yen from 78.33 yen.
Oil prices were mixed. New York’s main contract, Nymex light sweet crude for delivery in November, rose nine cents to $92.16 a barrel while Brent North Sea crude for November delivery shed 26 cents to $115.45.
Gold was at $1,767.80 at 1050 GMT compared with $1,770.18 late on Thursday.
In other markets:
—Singapore closed up 0.30%, or 9.09 points, to 3,041.75.
Wilmar International gained 3.60% to Sg$3.17 and DBS Group advanced 0.28% to Sg$14.18.
—Taipei fell 0.20%, or 14.68 points, to 7,437.04.
TSMC rose 0.94% to Tw$86.3 while Chunghwa Telecom fell 0.64% to Tw$92.8.
—Manila ended up 0.30%, or 16.25 points, at 5,369.72.
—Wellington rose 0.34%, or 13.35 points, to 3,896.66.
Chorus added 0.6% to NZ$3.36 and Fletcher Building was up 0.1% at NZ$7.25.
—Jakarta advanced 0.62%, or 26.42 points, to 4,311.39.
Astra Agro Lestari rose 2.67% to 21,150 rupiah, cigarette maker Gudang Garam gained 1.25% to 52,500 rupiah, while car maker Astra International lost 0.63% to 7,950 rupiah.
—Kuala Lumpur fell 0.13% percent, or 2.11 points, to 1,653.36.
Axiata Group lost 1.4 to close at 6.49 ringgit while Genting gained 1.6% to end at 8.80 ringgit.
—Bangkok nudged up 0.16%, or 2.08 points, to 1,296.98.
Banpu added 0.25% to 396.00 baht while PTT was unchanged at 315 baht.
—Mumbai fell 0.69% or 129.57 points to 18,675.18.