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Chinese equities surged on Thursday in a catch-up rally as the market resumed trading following a week-long holiday, while the rest of the region put up a lackluster performance, shrugging off the positive cues from the mainland and Wall Street.
Overnight, major U.S. indexes closed moderately higher, helped by a recovery in health care stocks and gains in energy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.7 percent, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite gained 0.8 and 0.9 percent, respectively.
The key focus of investors was on China markets, which reopened after National Day holidays. The benchmark Shanghai Composite closed up 3.0 percent at 3,143.36, paring some of its earlier gains.
"China is back from its week-long National Day celebrations and has plenty to catch up on," said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG. While the market was closed from October 1-7, the Hang Seng Index rose 8 percent, while H-shares, or Chinese companies that trade on the Hong Kong stock exchange, gained 10.5 percent, according to IG.
Elsewhere in Greater China, Taiwan's Taiex edged down 0.6 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 0.7 percent at the close. Bucking the downtrend, shares of movie theater equipment maker IMAX China, rallied in their trading debut in Hong Kong, last seen at around HK$34.10 ($4.40), well above the initial public offering (IPO) price of HK$31.00.
ASX hits one-month high
Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 percent to 5,210.4, its highest close since Sept. 9, boosted by gains in energy and resource-related stocks as investors sought bargains after months of heavy selling. Heavyweights BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals rose 3.1 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively.
Shares of Macquarie Group were halted from trade as the country's top investment bank announced it had agreed to buy ANZ Banking Group's dealer finance portfolio for A$8.2 billion ($5.91 billion). Macquarie's bid beat offers from U.S. private equity giant Carlyle and China's HNA Group.
Elsewhere in the financial space, shares of Bank of Queensland rallied over 7 percent after the lender posted a record full-year profit of $318 million ($228 million), up 22 percent on its 2014 result.
Nikkei slips on soft economic data
Japan's Nikkei 225 closed down 1 percent at 18,141.17 as disappointing economic data dragged on investor sentiment. Machinery orders – a leading indicator of corporate capital spending – fell 3.5 percent on year in August, well below the 4.2 percent rise forecast by economists polled by Reuters.
The weak data appears to be at odds with the Bank of Japan's more sanguine view on the economy. On Wednesday after finishing its two-day monetary policy meeting, the central bank said: "Japan's economy continues to recover moderately although exports and production have been affected by the slowdown in emerging economies."
After swinging between gains and losses over the course of the day, South Korea's Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ended up 0.7 percent at 2,019.53, a near two-month high, helped by foreign buying of local equities.
SEA's mixed performance
Meanwhile, equity markets in Southeast Asia traded in opposite directions. Singapore's STI closed down 0.5 percent, while Malaysia's KLCI was 0.17 percent higher at the close and Indonesia's Jakarta Composite rose 0.1 percent at the finish.
Indonesian stocks have been on a roll in recent days, gaining 6.6 percent in the past three sessions, according to Reuters, as the rupiah rallied and the government unveiled fresh stimulus measures to support the economy. On Wednesday, President Joko Widodo announced energy prices cuts and concessions to businesses in an effort to boost flagging growth.