BANGKOK - Asian stocks were lower this morning, with South Korea's benchmark index up after the country's central bank held interest rates steady but shares elsewhere following a downturn on Wall Street.
Oil prices jumped above $87 a barrel as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak clung to power amid growing protests calling for his resignation. The dollar was up against the euro and the yen.
In Seoul, South Korea's benchmark Kospi rose 0.1 percent to 2,010.01 after the Bank of Korea left its key interest rate at 2.75 percent despite rising inflation.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index dropped 0.4 percent to 22,620.22, a day after closing below 23,000 for the first time this year.
Tom Kaan of Louis Capital Markets said the drop was led by faltering shares in the company that runs the territory's stock exchange following a flurry of merger discussions between exchanges that didn't include Hong Kong's.
China's Shanghai Composite index was off 0.1 percent to 2,815.61. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 let go of the previous day's gains, dropping 0.3 percent to 4,898.60. Indexes in Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia were also lower. Japan's markets were closed for a public holiday.
Market sentiment was glum as anti-government protests in Egypt picked up steam and Wall Street started to sag after a bright week.
"With Egypt looking like it's blowing up again, investor confidence is really not there," Kaan said. "I am worried about the U.S. market after an eight-day winning streak, you may see a correction coming in and that could weigh on Asian markets next week."
U.S. stocks finished flat Thursday, dragged down by Cisco Systems Inc. and Akamai Technologies Inc. Both issued weak earnings forecasts, raising concerns about business and technology spending. Cisco, the world's largest networking equipment maker, had a 14 percent drop - the largest fall of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 10 points to 12,229. The S&P 500 rose a point to 1,321. The Nasdaq composite rose 1.4 point to 2,790.
Stocks traded lower much of the day despite the Labor Department saying that 383,000 people applied for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, the lowest level in nearly three years. Economists say applications would need to fall to 375,000 or below on a consistent basis before the unemployment rate will decline.
Benchmark crude for March delivery was up 65 cents at $87.38 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 2 cents to settle at $86.73 per barrel on Thursday.
A surge in Portugal's borrowing costs, meanwhile, again inflamed concerns about Europe's debt crisis, leading to a slip in the euro against the dollar. The European currency slid to $1.3577, after falling to $1.3593 late Thursday. The dollar was also stronger against the Japanese yen, at 83.44 from 83.32 late Thursday.