Asian stock markets closed sharply mixed on Friday, with Sydney back to its record-breaking ways while Hong Kong struggled badly in cautious trade after an uncertain performance on Wall Street, dealers said.
They said it was hard to reconcile the varied showings across the region but it appeared fund flows were the major factor, with Hong Kong under pressure as foreign investors cashed in while Kuala Lumpur got a boost, possibly as money was switched there.
A spike in oil prices did not help sentiment but the expectation was that crude would not return to crisis levels approaching US$60.
Dealers said the markets need a convincing lead to get out of the current doldrums, with most hoping that US employment figures due out later Friday would provide the catalyst for Wall Street to get back to winning ways.
The continuing toll of death and destruction from the earthquake and tsunamis had no discernible impact, with Jakarta finishing the day at yet another record, while Bangkok also did well.
Taiwanese share prices closed 0.77 percent lower amid concerns over disappointing corporate results and recent selling by foreign investors, dealers said.
They said the mixed overnight showing on Wall Street also failed to spark investors into taking aggressive positions in the local market.
The TAIEX closed down 46.13 points at 5,935.99, off a high of 6,007.34 and a low of 5,934.83, on turnover of NT$57.28 billion (US$1.79 billion).
"Investors were worried over any month-on-month declines in corporate sales for December," said Johnny Lee, a manager with President Securities (
Japanese share prices closed 0.51 percent lower as investors locked in morning gains ahead of the release later in the day of a closely watched US employment report, dealers said.
The Tokyo Stock Exchange's benchmark NIKKEI-225 index fell 59.02 points to 11,433.24. The broader TOPIX index of all First Section shares shed 2.21 points or 0.19 percent to 1,145.76.
"However, upward momentum remains strong and I expect the NIKKEI-225 index to test the 12,000 mark going forward."
South Korean share prices closed flat in volatile, nervous trade as investors waited on the next week's Bank of Korea policy meeting to see if central bank will cut interest rates, dealers said.
The KOSPI index closed down 0.44 points at 870.84, off a low of 866.72 and a high of 878.89.
Hong Kong share prices closed 1.0 percent lower on profit-taking and an outflow of speculative funds but the morning session's steep losses were trimmed to some extent by short-covering in the afternoon, dealers said.
The Hang Seng Index closed down 137.18 points at 13,574.86, off a low of 13,403.00.
The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index was down 25.47 points or 0.57 percent at 4,513.03.
Chinese share prices closed 0.43 percent higher as interest in oversold auto and software companies helped lift the market to a modestly positive finish after Thursday's losses, dealers said.
The Shanghai A-share Index gained 5.60 points to 1,306.48, while the Shenzhen A-share Index was up 0.45 points, or 0.14 percent, at 324.61.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, which covers both A- and B-shares listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, closed up 5.32 points, or 0.43 percent, at 1,244.75.
Australian share prices rose 0.83 percent to another record finish, supported by bargain hunters as fresh interest in the resource sector led solid gains, dealers said.