HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Asia stocks ended on a mostly upbeat note Friday, ahead of jobs data that’s expected to provide some more clues about the health of the U.S. economy.
Few markets had time to digest news of a powerful earthquake off Japan’s northern coast, which struck late in the trading day.
Most major markets around the region had finished trade for the week when a 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit off the northeast coast of Japan, triggering a 1-meter tsunami alert, although there were no reports any major damage and casualties by early evening. The temblor, centered more than 300 miles northeast of Tokyo, struck at 5.18 p.m. local time.
The Japanese yen /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.0295% strengthened temporarily in the wake of the news, rising to 82.14 in the immediate wake of the temblor, but eased to 82.33 yen in recent action, little changed from the level seen before the quake.
Singapore’s Straits Times Index retreated initially, but it too recovered to trade near levels ahead of the quake, ending 0.9% higher on the day. India’s Sensex index was slightly weaker, down 0.1% late.
Among other markets that were already shut when the quake struck, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -0.01% finished down 0.2% but still higher for the week. The Shanghai Composite index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 -1.22% rose 1.6% to move further away from recent multi-year lows.
In Japan itself, the Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.33% slipped 0.2% but remained around seven-month highs, while South Korea's Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +0.33% rose 0.4% to mid-October levels while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.34% advanced 0.9% to close at a seven-week high.
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Setting the tone for a bright day in Asia, U.S. shares recorded mild gains on Thursday.
The advance came after weekly U.S. jobless claims fell to their lowest level in a month, giving investors eyeing negotiations over tax hikes and spending cuts some reason for optimism over the economy. Read: U.S. stocks rise as cliff watch continues
U.S. jobs data are due out later in the global trading day Friday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch are expecting that the U.S. generated 80,000 jobs in November, down from an initial estimate of 171,000 in October, although the data will likely be clouded by the disruption caused by Hurricane Sandy. Read: How to read the Sandy-impacted jobs report
“Trading is likely to remain thin today as markets await the U.S. jobs report. The report will undoubtedly be soft but, as much of the impact will due to Hurricane Sandy, the market impact is likely to be muted leaving a likely constructive tone to risk appetite going into next week,” said Mitul Kotecha, strategist at Credit Agricole.
China shares gain
A positive trading debut by Chinese state-owned insurance giant People’s Insurance Co. (Group) of China /zigman2/quotes/200668945/delayed HK:1339 +0.32% , or PICC, helped the Hong Kong market to advance initially. PICC shares ended at 3.72 Hong Kong dollars, up 6.9% to from its IPO price of HK$3.48 a share, in the largest IPO to take place in Hong Kong for around two years.
Prada SpA /zigman2/quotes/200575701/delayed HK:1913 -1.22% shares surged 10% to an all time high after the Italian luxury products firm late Thursday reported third-quarter earnings that beat analyst estimates. Read: Prada 9-month net up 50%; demand strong
Commodity-sector firms were among other notable gainers in Hong Kong, as oil, gold, silver and copper futures advanced in electronic trading, as Aluminum Corp. of China /zigman2/quotes/202960704/delayed HK:2600 +1.23% /zigman2/quotes/208051344/composite ACH +1.11% climbed 2.1% while PetroChina Co. /zigman2/quotes/204979431/delayed HK:857 +1.40% /zigman2/quotes/205108732/composite PTR +0.81% climbed 0.4%.
Hong Kong-listed shares of mainland property developers continued their record run with China Overseas Land & Investment /zigman2/quotes/205731176/delayed HK:688 +2.02% ending up 2.4% while China Resources Land Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202417326/delayed HK:1109 +1.70% was up 0.5%. Both stocks set fresh 52-week highs during intraday trade Friday.