Asia-Pacific equities struggled for direction Friday, as investors seek new drivers after an October to remember and await the next U.S. jobs report.
But Australian stocks bucked the trend. Boosted by commodity-price gains, the S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.5% to finish at 5959.9, its highest since April of 2015. If it can crack that year's highest close, 5982.7, the index will be at 10-year highs.
BHP Billiton rose 1.2%, making the week's jump 4.1%, while Rio Tinto added 1% to hit a six-year high. Rising metals were also helping Korean steel producers, with Posco climbing 0.5%. But Korea's Kospi was down 0.2% as index heavyweight Samsung sank 2%.
Japan markets are closed for a holiday.
The pause in Asian stocks following October's pop "is normal consolidation," said CMC market analyst Margaret Yang Yan. Selling is pretty light, she added, "and we don't see a systematic risk. It's just the market needs some time to digest and consolidate a bit."
Chinese stocks ended their morning session down in a possible bout of profit-taking. The Nasdaq-like ChiNext in Shenzhen was off 0.6%--after earlier rising as much as 0.5%--matched by the Shenzhen Composite. The Shanghai Composite slid 0.7%.
The October U.S. jobs report is set for release later Friday. After September numbers that showed the first monthly drop in seven years--attributed to a hurricane effect--"expectations are quite high" for the October reading, said OM Financial client adviser Stuart Ive. Weekly jobless claims are at 44-year lows.
Looming over Asia stocks is President Donald Trump's extended trip to the region, starting Sunday with his arrival in Japan. Headlines related to geopolitical tensions in the region could dampen market sentiment.
"In the absence of geopolitical risk I don't see anything on the horizon but pretty-full valuations to be worried about," said David Millhouse, head of China research at brokerage firm Forsyth Barr.
Among individual stocks Friday, Chinese tech giant Tencent rose 1.6% to a fresh record after peer Alibaba reported positive quarterly results overnight. The gain helped Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index--of which Tencent is the largest component--finish morning trading up 0.3%.
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 on expectations that a production-cap deal set to expire in March will be extended.
Steel and key steel ingredient iron ore are among the leaders in this week's metals rebound. Nickel has been a standout over the past month, jumping 23% on expectations that rising demand from electric-vehicle producers will tighten supplies.
Write to Lucy Craymer at Lucy.Craymer@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 03, 2017 02:07 ET (06:07 GMT)