Asia Markets

Australia stocks soar more than 3%; investors await US initial jobless claims data

Key Points
  • Stocks in Asia Pacific were mostly higher on Thursday.
  • The Bank of Korea on Thursday kept its benchmark interest unchanged at 0.75%. That was largely in line with expectations of most analysts surveyed by Reuters.
  • The U.S. unemployment claims report for the week ended April 4 is set to be out at 8:30 a.m. ET Thursday, with more than five million expected to have filed for unemployment last week.

Stocks in Asia Pacific were mostly higher on Thursday ahead of the release of the U.S. unemployment claims report.

Shares in Australia led gains among the region's major markets, with the S&P/ASX 200 jumping 3.46% to close at 5,387.30 as shares of major banks such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac rose more than 3% each.

Mainland Chinese stocks edged higher on the day, with the Shanghai composite up 0.37% to about 2,825.90 while the Shenzhen composite gained 0.846% to around 1,755.37. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index advanced 1.35%, as of its final hour of trading.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi gained 1.61% to close at 1,836.21 as shares of automaker Hyundai Motor soared 7.89% while the Kosdaq index gained 1.41% to end its trading day at 615.95.

Japan's Nikkei 225, on the other hand, closed fractionally lower at 19,345.77 while the Topix index finished its trading day 0.6% lower at 1,416.98.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index rose 1.53%.

On the economic data front, the U.S. unemployment claims report for the week ended April 4 is set to be out at 8:30 a.m. ET Thursday, with more than five million expected to have filed for unemployment last week as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

Aberdeen Standard Investments' Hugh Young told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday that the numbers on the unemployment front will likely look "fairly bad."

"We've seen the initial short, sharp rises (in unemployment) and I think as other industries assess the effect on their businesses — even when their businesses are in decent shape — are going to look at cutting out costs more and more," said Young, who is managing director for the Asia Pacific region at Aberdeen Standard Investments. "It's going to be quite brutal, I think, in the months ahead."

In Asia, the Bank of Korea on Thursday kept its benchmark interest unchanged at 0.75%. That was largely in line with expectations of most analysts surveyed by Reuters.

Oil prices advance

Oil prices jumped in the afternoon of Asian trading hours on Thursday, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 3.11% at $33.86 per barrel. The U.S. crude futures contract also soared 5.86% to $26.56 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 100.134 after seeing an earlier low of 99.992.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.92 per dollar after weakening from levels below 108.8 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6233 after touching an earlier low of $0.6193.