Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.1% and Seoul and Sydney logged modest gains. Hong Kong and Shanghai were flat.
Oil prices fell back after surging 6% on Wednesday on concerns over disruptions to shipping from a skyscraper-sized cargo ship wedged across Egypt’s Suez Canal.
Efforts continue to free the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe that ran aground Tuesday in the narrow, man-made canal dividing continental Africa from the Sinai Peninsula.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Wednesday it was adopting an interim rule that some foreign companies must provide documentation to show they are not owned or controlled by a government entity. The requirement mainly is expected to affect Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges and the SEC statement triggered selling of such companies in Hong Kong.
“Tech giants from Tencent and Alibaba hit the plunge pool after U.S. regulators rekindled threats to toss China’s most prominent corporations off U.S. bourses, compounding concerns of a widening domestic antitrust crackdown," Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary.
Investors are keeping an eye on efforts to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The Biden administration is considering up to $3 trillion in additional spending on infrastructure, green energy, and education.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the Senate she believes the U.S. government has more room to borrow, but said higher taxes would likely be required in the long run to finance future spending increases. That spooked some investors.
Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated that a recent jump in the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury, which soared from less than 1% at the beginning of the year to 1.63% Thursday, was mostly a sign of confidence among investors that the economy is improving.
The Nikkei climbed to 28,729.88 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong was flat at 27,919.59. The Shanghai Composite index also was flat, at 3,366.54. South Korea's Kospi picked up 0.4% to 3,008.33 and Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.2% higher, to 6,790.60.
India's Sensex lost 1.8% and shares were higher in Taiwan and most of Southeast Asia apart from Jakarta.
On Wednesday, the S&P 500 gave up 0.5% to 3,889.14, its second loss in a row, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 2% to 12,961.89.
Technology and communication services companies accounted for the heaviest selling, outweighing gains in financial, energy and industrial stocks. Apple fell 2%, while Facebook lost 2.9%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped less than 0.1% to 32,420.06, after a 364-point gain vanished by late afternoon.
Smaller company stocks fared worse than the broader market. The Russell 2000 index lost 2.4% to 2,134.27.
Bond yields have risen this year as traders have been watching the potential for inflation pressures to pick up after struggling economies were flooded with credit and government spending. That has depressed U.S. bond prices, prompting some to shift money out of stocks.
While rising interest rates are a key concern, the pandemic remains a dominant topic for investors. Stocks fell on Tuesday after Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, and the Netherlands imposed new travel and business curbs in response to spikes in infection. That followed similar moves earlier by Italy and France.
Bank stocks, which took a beating on Tuesday, were among the best performers. Banks have been volatile the last couple of weeks as investors try to gauge the impact of higher interest rates on the U.S. economy. Higher interest rates can slow economic momentum, but they also allow banks to charge more for loans. JPMorgan Chase added 0.8%.
GameStop sank 33.8% after reporting results that missed Wall Street’s forecasts, though the stock is still up more than six-fold since the beginning of the year after it became a social media darling for a swarm of online investors.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost $1.14 to $60.04 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard for pricing oil, lost $1.06 to $63.19 per barrel.
The U.S. dollar rose to 108.97 Japanese yen from 108.73 yen on Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1819 from $1.1813.