ASIA MARKETS: Australia Stocks Near 10-year High As Asia-Pacific Markets Stay Largely Flat

By Lucy Craymer Features Dow Jones Newswires

Metal prices help S&P/ASX to best day of 2017; Hang Seng rises on Tencent's rally

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Asia-Pacific equities struggled for direction Friday, following a lack of movement in most U.S. stocks overnight, as investors seek new drivers after an October to remember.

Australian stocks stood out, hitting fresh 2017 highs on gains in commodity prices. The S&P/ASX 200 was recently up 0.5% at 5,964 -- hitting a 2017 high for the second day in a row -- and moving closer to 2015's peak of 5,996.90. Topping that would put the index at its best level in 10 years.

BHP Billiton (BHP.AU) rose 1.3%, putting the week's gain at 4.2%, while Rio Tinto (RIO) added 1% to hit a six-year high. Higher metals prices were helping Korean steel producers, with Posco (PKX) climbing 0.6%.

But Korea's Kospi was flat and most benchmarks in the region were within 0.2% of Thursday's closing levels. Japanese markets were closed Friday for a holiday.

"This is normal consolidation," said CMC market analyst Margaret Yang Yan. But she added that selling is pretty light "and we don't see a systematic risk. It's just the market needs some time to digest and consolidate a bit."

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Some investors have paused ahead of today's U.S. jobs report. After the first monthly drop in seven years in September's -- skewed by hurricanes -- "expectations are quite high for the data," OM Financial client adviser Stuart Ive said. Weekly jobless claims are at 44-year lows.

Metals prices rebounded this week, with steel and iron ore among the leaders. Nickel has been a standout by rising 23% over the past month due to expectations that supply will tighten on demand from electric-vehicle producers.

Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings (0700.HK) rose 1.4%, hitting record highs again. That came after Alibaba Group Holding (BABA) reported positive quarterly results. That helped Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gain 0.5%.

Elsewhere, oil futures continued to rise, with the U.S. benchmark joining global standard Brent in reaching levels last seen in mid-2015. Both are up as much as 0.5% in Asian trading.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 02, 2017 23:40 ET (03:40 GMT)