Asia-Pacific Markets

Asian Stocks Finish Mostly Higher, China Hits Record High

Asian stocks closed in broadly positive territory Thursday, with the exception of Hong Kong and Australia, despite U.S. housing data renewing fears over the strength of Asia's top export market.

The Shanghai Composite Index was the best performer of the day, closing 1.6% higher, having breached the 5,400 mark to hit a lifetime high at 5,401.41. A fresh inflow of funds from retail investors helped drive the rally in China.

Steel firms like Baoshan Iron & Steel jumped more than 3% after it confirmed that its parent company has formed an alliance with smaller rival Handan Iron & Steel to expand capacity. Handan was up 4%.

The Nikkei 225 recovered from early losses to close 0.6% higher .

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index closed broadly flat as investors cashed in on recent gainers a day after the market reached its second straight record.

But MTR shares climbed as the railway operator's merger with KCRC was within sight. According to UBS, the deal would make MTR the largest real estate developer in Hong Kong.

Seoul shares gained ground in afternoon trading with the benchmark KOSPI up 1.2%. Chipmakers took a hit after Apple cut the price of its iPhone on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in the region, Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 0.6% higer, in line with the regional decline. The Singapore Exchange said it has rectified a glitch in the city-state's main blue-chip index that led to inaccurate market prices.

The sentiment was stronger in Australia after data released this morning showed the country's labour market was booming as unemployment hovered at 33-year lows.

That news helped the S&P/ASX 200 index recover from earlier falls to close only slightly lower.

Declines in U.S.-focused stocks such as Brambles were offset by gains in energy producer Wooside Petroleum, after it announced it will sell liquefied natural gas from its Browse project off Western Australia to PetroChina.

In the meantime, global miner Rio Tinto gained on fresh talk it could be a takeover target.