Most Asian stocks pushed in and out of positive territory following a choppy path Wednesday, even as Japanese equities dropped following a weak lead from Wall Street and a stronger yen.
The Nikkei was down 0.6% at 12:45 a.m. Tokyo time. The Shanghai Composite lost 0.4% while the Hang Seng recovered earlier losses to edge up 0.2%. Australia's S&P/ASX All Ordinaries also moved out of the red zone, adding 0.1% while Mumbai's Sensex opened 0.4% higher.
Sentiment was cautious after U.S. equities finished lower overnight and as investors awaited some corporate results from the region. Investors were also eyeing U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony to Congress later today.
The dollar weakened before Bernanke's address while the yen gained ground against the dollar ahead of a much-antiicipated upper house elections in Japan this weekend, which will be crucial for the future shape of the country's currency.
In other news, the Indian government introducted big-bang foreign direct investment reforms, opening up a host of sectors, including telecom and defence sectors, to greater FDI.
Stocks on the Move
Exporters in Tokyo were trading mixed. Among the gainers, Nintendo Co. extended its gains, soaring 6.8% in today's session, while Sharp Corp. rose 3.3% and Toshiba Corp. added over 1%.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. surged 13.2% amid reports the car manufacturer would hike its dividend payouts.
Resources stocks were also on the higher side -- Inpex Corp. gained 2.2% and Kobe Steel rose 2.7%. Financials, power utilities and retailers, however, lagged behind.
In Hong Kong, coal miners scored robust gains. China Shenhua Energy rose 5.6%, China Coal Energy advanced 3.8% while Yanzhou Coal Mining was up 2.5%.
Financials were also modestly higher. ICBC and China Construction Bank both edged up 0.6% each while HSBC Holdings plc. added 0.4%.
In Sydney, miners led the field after recent string of losses. BHP Billiton rose 2.2%, Rio Tinto gained 1.7% and Fortescue Metals Group vaulted 4.6%. Gold miner Newcrest Mining was also higher, up 1.5%.
Troubled surfwear retailer Billabong International soared 35% after the company said it was in talks with prospective bidders for alternative refinancing and asset sale transactions.
In Mumbai, stocks opened higher as investors cheered the government's move to liberalise FDI norms.
Top gainers included Dr. Reddys Lab (up 2%), TCS (+1.85), Mahindra & Mahindra (+1.6%), Tata Power (+1.6%) and NTPC (+1.4%).