A man walks in front of a board showing stock market prices inside a brokerage in Taipei
A man walks in front of a board showing stock market prices inside a brokerage in Taipei September 23, 2011. REUTERS

Asian stock markets advanced Thursday as market participants awaited the European Central Bank (ECB) policy decision meeting later in the day.

The Shanghai Composite surged 0.70 percent or 14.24 points to 2051.92, Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.32 percent or 60.92 points to 19,205.99 and South Korean KOSPI Composite advanced 0.38 percent or 7.21 points to 1,881.24 while Japanese benchmark Nikkei ended flat and India's BSE Sensex gained 0.27 percent.

Market participants were awaiting the ECB's policy decision meeting later Thursday where bank's President Mario Draghi was expected to unveil details of a long-awaited debt-buying plan to help lower Spanish and Italian bond yields.

Expectations got high after a Bloomberg report Wednesday, citing two unnamed sources briefed on the plan, that Draghi's bond-buying plan would target bonds which would mature in three years or less and that all of the bank's purchases would be "sterilized" to prevent the impression that it's "printing money".

The recent weak economic reports, including manufacturing activity in the euro area which contracted for the 13th straight month in August, raised expectations that the central bank would cut interest rates to record lows at its monetary policy decision Thursday. However, some reports suggest that the ECB will delay any rate cut as the focus lies with non-standard support.

"Markets are in wait and see mode ahead of the European Central Bank decision today and US August jobs report tomorrow. Leaks overnight suggest that much of what will be announced today has already emerged but markets will look for specific details to determine whether the Bank will do 'whatever it takes," said a note from Credit Agricole.

Japanese Nikkei ended flat as weakness in exporter companies shares weighed. Fujitsu Ltd declined 1.95 percent and Toshiba Corp plunged 3.70 percent while Sharp Corp slumped 4.31 percent following its short-term credit rating downgrade by Moody's.

Among other stocks, Advantest Corp. gained 1.75 percent and Toyota Motor Corp advanced 1.64 percent while JFE Holdings Inc. fell 2.05 percent.

Property developers and Casino shares went down in Hong Kong. Hang Lung Properties Ltd fell 1.55 percent and Wynn Macau Ltd plunged 4.81 percent while Sands China Ltd declined 2.96 percent.

Seoul shares advanced Thursday, led by gains from telecom firms. KT Corp surged 3.20 percent and LG Electronics Inc gained 1.44 percent while Samsung Electronics Co Ltd rose 0.59 percent.

On the economic front, South Korea's economic growth slowed down to 0.3 percent in the second quarter compared to the previous three months, weighed down by the faltering global economy and the intensifying debt crisis in the euro zone, revised data released by the Bank of Korea (BoK) showed.