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