Asian shares mixed; Chinese equities end losing streak
Asian stocks were mixed on Thursday, after a lack of positive cues from Wall Street and before U.S. Federal Reserve's Chair Janet Yellen's Senate testimony later in the day.
Shanghai up 0.3%
The mainland's benchmark Shanghai Composite index snapped a four-day losing streak on Thursday, emerging out of recent doldrums caused by last week's dismal preliminary manufacturing data and concerns over its property sector.
Top gainers included Sinopec, which extended previous session's rally to pile on another 7 percent, on news that the company will soon announce the next stages of its reform plans. Banking stock Hua Xia Bank advanced 5 percent, while Minsheng Bank climbed 4 percent.
However, property stocks floundered despite state-run news agency Xinhua reporting that China's major lenders have not tightened or halted their property-related lending business. Shanghai Shimao and China Merchants Property tumbled 1.8 percent while Vanke fell 1.4 percent.
Meanwhile, the Chinese yuan, which has been in the spotlight as of late for posting unusually steep declines, traded little changed at 6.1284 against the U.S. dollar.
Sydney falls 0.5%
Shares of the flag carrier tanked over 9 percent, after it unveiled a half-year loss of $252 million and said it would cut 5,000 full-time positions. The struggling airline said it would also make plans to sell its Sydney and Melbourne terminal spaces, while more than 50 aircraft would be deferred or sold.
"What we're hearing is steps to return Qantas to a lower cost base and return to profitability, which is good for Qantas' share price in the medium term," said Julia Lee, equities analyst at Bell Direct to Reuters.
Putting further pressure on the market was report which showed Australian business investment fell 5.2 percent last quarter, the biggest drop in over four years.
Banking stocks were sluggish all day; Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 0.3 percent while National Australian Bank dropped 0.2 percent.
Tokyo sheds 0.3%
Japan's benchmark Nikkei index bounced between gains and losses in choppy trade and eventually ended in the red on Thursday, as investors awaited Yellen's testimony for further trading cues.
Investors may also be waiting for a raft of economic data, due Friday, to gauge Japan's economic health.
"We are calling the Nikkei mildly weaker today at 14,900, but given we are heading to a couple of days of crucial data for the U.S. dollar and yen then we might see some positioning. Today we have weekly fund flows data which will then be followed by the all-important CPI print tomorrow among a raft of other releases," says Stan Shamu, Market Strategist at IG in a note.
Rakuten skidded over 4 percent, while Nintendo slumped 3.9 percent. Index heavyweight Fast Retailing too traded in the red with a 1.7 percent loss.
Panasonic however continued to outperform the bourse with a 3 percent gain, after the Nikkei newspaper reported on Wednesday that the firm is inviting a number of Japanese suppliers to join it in an investment plan with Tesla Motor.
(Read more: Is India's economy still stuck in a rut?)
Korea gains 0.4%
South Korean shares erased early losses to stretch its rally into the third day. Latest news on the country's current account surplus, which fell to $7.53 billion in January from an all-time high of $8.07 billion in December, may have lifted sentiment.
SK Holdings rose 7 percent, despite its chairman Chey Tae-won receiving a four-year prison sentence for embezzlement on Thursday. This was one of the longest confirmed prison terms for a business leader in South Korea. SK Telecom and SK Innovation however fell 0.2 and 0.7 percent each.
Bangkok rises 1%
Thailand shares rebounded from Wednesday's flat session to trade in positive territory on Thursday. The embattled Southeast Asian country remains in focus with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra scheduled to face a corruption probe later in the day.
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