Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.65 percent or 137.38 points to 21136.43, Chinese Shanghai Composite rose 0.10 percent or 2.06 points to 2104.93 and South Korea’s KOSPI Composite ended flat while Japanese benchmark Nikkei declined 0.15 percent or 12.66 points to 8534.12 and Indian benchmark BSE Sensex slipped 0.33 percent.
Markets opened on a positive note as the number of Americans lining up for new jobless benefits fell sharply to the lowest level in more than four years last week, suggesting indication of an improvement in the labor market in the world’s biggest economy gaining traction.
The Labor Department said Thursday that initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped sharply by 30,000 last week to seasonally adjusted 339,000 in the week ending Oct. 6, the lowest level since February 2008.
The sentiment was also supported by news that Chinese and Japanese officials have agreed to bilateral talks to reduce tensions over the Senkaku islands dispute. However, the uncertainty about the Spanish bailout and concerns over slowing global growth and corporate earnings continued to weigh on markets.
“Risk assets initially rallied overnight on the back of the unexpected drops in US jobless claim. Later on, news report that Spain was comfortable waiting weeks or even months before asking for aid capped market rallies,” said a note from Credit Agricole.
Concerns over the global economic slowdown resurfaced this week after the IMF slashed its growth forecast for the world to 3.3 percent this year and 3.6 percent for 2013 citing the debt crisis affecting the euro zone and the faltering U.S. economy. The IMF said a further spike in the euro zone crisis and failure to tackle the “fiscal cliff” in the U.S. would make growth prospects far worse.
Meanwhile, investors turned their attention to corporate earnings with JP Morgan and Wells Fargo reporting their quarterly earnings before the opening bell. Market participants feared that the upcoming quarterly corporate earnings will be far less flattering than in previous quarters. According to Thomson Reuters’ data, S&P 500 earnings for the third quarter are forecast to have fallen 2.4 percent from the year-earlier, which would be the first decline in three years and could make global recovery more difficult in the months ahead.
“We will have more earnings next week, and the expectations are not high. If results are disappointing, stocks will sell off, so that makes it difficult to buy now,” Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities in Tokyo, told Reuters.
Japanese shares ended lower as gains from metal and technology shares were offset by declines in Softbank and Fast Retailing. Pacific Metals Co Ltd. gained 2.42 percent and Advantest Corp. advanced 2.27 percent while Fast Retailing Co Ltd plunged 9.94 percent after forecasting a full year profit below analyst estimates.
Softbank Corp. tumbled 16.87 percent on news that the Japanese mobile phone carrier is in talks to buy more than two-thirds of the U.S.-based telecoms company Sprint.
In Hong Kong, Bank of China Ltd. rose 0.99 percent and Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. gained 1.26 percent while Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. surged 4.06 percent.