Asian stocks had a mixed end to the week as many investors stayed out of the market in the run-up to the U.S. jobs data due later Friday. Japanese, South Korean and Taiwanese stocks were weaker, but the Heng Seng enjoyed a late-session rally.
Traders said a U.S. jobs growth figure below a median market expectation of 100,000 may refuel a dollar-selling trend triggered last month after the Fed slashed its key interest rate by 50 basis points to 4.75%.
"A stronger-than-expected number could trim expectations of a further Fed rate cut and push the dollar higher. But if stocks react negatively and hurt risk appetite, the dollar could fall against the yen," said Minoru Shioiri, chief manager of FX trading at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities.
Equity investors are also looking ahead to the earnings season, which kicks off next week, to see how profits, particularly in the banking sector, may have been hit by the
global credit squeeze.
Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei is down 0.2% and the Korea Composite Stock Price Index is 0.4% off the pace.
Meantime, the Tokyo bourse has suspended trade in Simplex Investments Advisors after sources said Goldman Sachs plans to launch a takeover bid for the Tokyo-based property investor.
Casio, a maker of digital watches, tumbled 19.1% percent to 1,272 yen after the company cut its operating profit forecast for the current business year by 30% due to sluggish mobile phone sales, missing market expectations.
A notable gainer in Japan was Osaka Securities Exchange, which jumped 8.6% to 606,000 yen after the exchange said it would list an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks the SSE 50 index of major issues traded on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. That makes it the first ETF linked to an overseas index to be listed on a domestic bourse. The ETF will be listed on Oct. 23.
Aeon, Japan's second-biggest retail group, rose 3% to 1,671 yen, helped by a share buyback plan, but failed to recoup all of Thursday's losses and was still 1.7% lower than as of Wednesday's close.
In Korea, shares in Dongbu Insurance jumped 11.4% to 43,000 won after it said it had sold its remaining stake in Dongbu HiTek.
The stake sale prompted investors to expect the non-life insurer to reduce its exposure to the weak affiliate, although the jump in Dongbu Insurance shares may face short-term
profit-taking, analysts said.
Shares in South Korea's department stores such as Shinsegae rose as an expected recovery in domestic demand in Asia's fourth-largest economy is likely to lift their earnings.
Shinsegae, the country's No.2 retailer, gained 3.01% to 650,000 won, and bigger rival Lotte Shopping rose 0.26% to 391,000 won.
And in Hong Kong, Alibaba.com, China's largest e-commerce company, has won approval from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange for an initial public offering expected to be worth roughly $1 billion, sources familiar with the deal said.
The deal is being sponsored by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, with Rothschild, a financial adviser.
Over in Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rebounded to close 0.6% higher, led by a recover in top miner BHP Billiton and energy stocks like Caltex Australia rose on a rebound in oil prices.
The TAIEX finished lower by 0.11%, while the Straits Times Index ended 1% in the green.