Most stock markets in Asia rose on Thursday, as oil prices
gained and hints of improvement in the flagging US economy put some steam into things.
Japan's Nikkei Stock Average finished up 1.28%, and South Korea's Kospi was up 0.55%. The Hang Seng Index was an odd one out, closing down 0.31%.
In China, the Shanghai Composite Index managed a 0.35% gain to finish at 2,859.76. Volumes were lower as investors waited for the beginning of the National People's Congress, the country's annual legislative meeting set to begin on Saturday.
Beijing policymakers were expected to draw up proposals to stimulate things in the slowing economy at the congress.
"Right now most investors in China are just 'wait and see'. They're waiting to see whether there is any surprise from the NPC announcement," said Core Pacific-Yamaichi International head of research Castor Pang.
Chinese stocks had begun the day paring gains, after rhetoric from the Shanghai Stock Exchange fuelled concerns of an impending tighter money supply.
Exchange chairman Gui Minjie said preparation work to launch a registration-based system for new share sales was "running smoothly" on Thursday. The system was expected to soak up cash currently available for trading shares
of existing listings.
Investors in the People's Republic were also placing bets on property companies, which were expected to benefit from housing stimulus policies at the National People's Congress.
Fresh data also revealed service activity in China was growing at a slower pace in February. The privately-calculated Caixin China services purchasing managers index dropped to 51.2 in February, off from January's six month high of 52.4.
Hong Kong's woes came after data in the morning showed manufacturing activity in the special administrative region contracted in February. A slump in tourism and weak global growth was blamed, with losses in most sectors offsetting gains in energy equities.
Indications from the US of an improving economy overnight also helped ease concerns in the region. The Federal Reserve's beige book on Wednesday showed economic activity in most parts of the country grew in recent months, and a private reading of jobs suggested employment rose in February.
It boosted confidence in the official nonfarm payroll figures, which were due out on Friday.
Oil was mixed after gaining in Asian trading. Brent crude was last down 0.05% to $36.91 per barrel, while West Texas Intermediate was up 0.14% to $34.71.
Australian shares enjoyed their fourth straight day of gains, with strong new vehicle sales and trade deficit data pushing the S&P/ASX 200 1.2% higher.
Upbeat sentiments in New Zealand's tourism sector helped to boost the S&P/NZX 50 to an all-time high of 6,380.87, up 1.1%. It was led by airport operator AIAL, up 4.3%, as increasing passenger counts pushed its profits higher.
In currencies, renminbi remained in more or less the name place after Beijing guided its loose onshore peg to 6.5412 per US dollar, around the same value as Wednesday.
The Korean won strengthened after data showed consumer-price inflation rose 1.3% on February from 12 months prior, ahead of economist expectations. It was last 1.03% ahead at KRW 1,214.80 per dollar.
Japan's yen shifted away from the dollar, and was last 0.41% weaker at JPY 113.94.
The Down Under dollars gained on the greenback, with the Aussie last 0.51% stronger at AUD 1.3638, and the Kiwi 0.31% ahead to NZD 1.4933.