Most Asian markets finished the week lower
A pedestrian walks past an electronic board displaying the Nikkei's movements outside a brokerage in Tokyo, on 25 October, 2013 (Reuters).

Most Asian stock markets finished the week lower, but India's Sensex and Australia's ASX bucked the trend to finish higher.

Markets outside India traded higher at the beginning of the week after comments from Beijing boosted investor sentiment across the region.

Premier Li Keqiang said there should be "no slackening" in executing policies that ensured that China's growth targets were met.

In Australia, the benchmark ASX index hit a new five-year high after mining stocks logged strong gains during the day.

In India, the benchmark index was trading lower as investors booked profits. On 18 October, the BSE Sensex hit a three-year high and traded close to a six-year high, boosted by upbeat China growth data.

China's gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 7.8% year-on-year in the July-September quarter. The government's statistics office expects the country's economy to expand by 7.5% this year.

"The Australian market is looking more bullish by the day. While fundamentally many analysts would argue the market is fairly valued at current levels, price action is indicating otherwise. Forward earnings suggest Australia stocks are good value," Tim Radford, global analyst at Rivkin Securities said in a note to clients.

"Technically, momentum is again to the upside, and with stocks entering a seasonally strong period amid a significant reduction in headline risk we believe decent upside is ahead for Australian equities leading into the end of 2013," Radford added.

Markets witnessed mixed trade on 22 October as investors refrained from making big bets ahead of the release of a closely watched US labour market report.

In China, data from September showed that the prices of new homes increased across 69 out of 70 cities. Prices increased by an average 8.19% on an annual basis, against 7.48% in August and 6.70% in July, Wall Street Journal data showed.

Higher house prices are often viewed negatively by the markets as they could attract government intervention that is aimed at cooling the property market. The news pulled down realty stocks in China.

Markets reversed early gains and traded lower on 23 October as investors booked profits after the US nonfarm payrolls report pointed to sluggish economic recovery in the world's largest economy.

America added 148,000 jobs in September, much lower than what analysts had forecast. The unemployment rate fell to 7.2%, down from 7.3% in August.

The data suggested that the US economy is recovering, albeit at a slow pace.

Market players said they expected the US Federal Reserve to defer the planned reduction of its $85bn-a-month bond-buying stimulus, to early 2014.

"For the Fed, the key takeaway from the report is likely to be that the [US] economy is in no shape to deal with the level of reduction in monetary policy stimulus," said Millan Mulraine at TD Securities in New York, reported the Financial Times.

In China, market players blamed the heavy selling to reports that leading Chinese lenders, including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), had erased $3.7bn worth of bad debt in the first half of 2013, higher than the preceding year's figure.

However, banking stocks were unaffected by the news.

Data from Hong Kong showed that the region's ambitious plans to improve its infrastructure could be stymied by a shortage of blue-collar workers.

Hong Kong would face a shortfall of 14,000 workers in 2018 if the city's economy expanded by 4% ever year. The labour deficit could rocket to 163,800 workers if the region logged a higher growth rate in the years leading up to 2018.

Meanwhile, Asia's richest man Li Ka-shing is busy preparing a war chest to boost his European business footprint where distressed markets have already helped him make a series of purchases.

Li's moves suggest he wants to trim his investment portfolio in Hong Kong, which has struggled amid stiff competition from the neighbouring port-city of Shenzhen and an upcoming free trade zone in Shanghai.

Markets witnessed mixed trade on 24 October on upbeat factory activity data from China; and after a rise in mainland money market rates sparked fears of a probable liquidity-crunch in the world's second biggest economy.

Data from China showed that the HSBC flash PMI struck a seven-month high in October at 50.9, compared to a reading of 50.2 in September. That data followed last week's positive third quarter GDP numbers. Together they suggested that the world's second largest economy is improving.

Markets outside Australia traded lower on the final trading day after concerns surrounding a repeat of June's credit crisis in China fuelled a sell-off.

China reported a sharp increase in money-market rates. The 7-day repo rate, the interest rate at which the central bank repurchases government securities and a key measure of liquidity, opened at 4.8% on 25 October and followed close to a 7% overnight increase.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) tightened liquidity by withdrawing cash from the system on 24 October.

The developments sparked concerns of a potential liquidity crunch in China which weighed down on Asian stocks on 25 October.

In South Korea, central bank data showed that the country's real GDP increased 1.1% in the July-September quarter, against a 1.1% increase in the preceding quarter.

In company news, Canada's largest dairy processor Saputo was back in the lead to acquire Australian dairy processor Warrnambool Cheese & Butter (WCB).

Market Movements

India's S&P BSE Sensex finished 1.31% higher at 20,683.52.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 finished 0.92% higher at 5,386.30.

South Korea's Kospi finished 0.94% lower at 2,034.39.

The Shanghai Composite index ended 2.99% lower at 2,132.96.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended 3.40% lower at 22,698.34.

The Japanese Nikkei index ended 3.79% lower at 14,088.19.

The Week Ahead

Market players will be tracking the US Federal Reserve's FOMC meet on 29-30 October and the central bank will put out a statement detailing its monetary policy at the end of the two-day meeting.

The Fed's $85bn a month bond-buying stimulus has supported the US economy and the markets the world over for a while now.

Barclays Capital said in a note to clients: "In light of the moderate tone of the September employment report, we have pushed out our expectation for the first Fed tapering in the pace of asset purchases to March 2014 from December 2013. We now expect the Fed to finish the asset purchase program in September 2014, later than our previous expectation of June 2014. We have not changed our expected timing of the first Fed rate hike in June 2015."

"Payrolls rose 148k in September, below our and consensus expectations, and the 3-month average payroll gain is 143k. While we believe these figures are strong enough to keep the unemployment rate on a downward trend, in September [outgoing Fed] Chairman Bernanke downplayed the falling unemployment rate and focused instead on what the Fed views as subpar job growth. Given this trend in job growth, the uncertainty created by the government shutdown, and the impending change in Fed leadership, we now expect the FOMC to wait at least until March to begin the tapering process," according to Barclays Capital.

Both the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP) and HSBC will release China factory activity data for the month of October.

The Bank of Japan will announce its interest rate decision.

The Japanese government will put out a raft of data including the unemployment rate, industrial production, household spending figures and retail sales data for the month of September.

Market participants will also be tracking Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens' speech.

The Australian government will put out building permits data for the month of September.

Banking major ANZ will release the results of its October business confidence survey.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand will announce its interest rate decision.