With just hours to go before the Nobel Literature Prize laureate is announced in Stockholm, speculation has hit fever pitch with Canada’s Alice Munro and Japan’s Haruki Murakami often cited as possible winners. Short story writer Munro is a favourite in Sweden’s literary circles, while the Japanese novelist is preferred by bookmakers. The typical Nobel literature laureate writes novels, in English, is of European origin, averages 65 years of age, and in one of two cases, has a beard or a moustache, according to Swedish public broadcaster SVT. Will that description be accurate this year, when the Swedish Academy’s permanent secretary Peter Englund reveals the choice on Thursday at 1pm in Stockholm? Experts say a woman or a North American would be a logical choice. The US hasn’t received the prize since 1993, when Toni Morrison won, and since 1901 only 12 women out of 108 laureates have been recognised by the Nobel committee. Among the pundits surveyed by daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on the eve of the big day, the names of Alice Munro, American Philip Roth and Algerian Assia Djebar are frequently mentioned as someone they “would like to win”, while Murakami is seen as a likely candidate. Albania’s Ismail Kadare, Somalia’s Nuruddin Farah and Britain’s Salman Rushdie are also among those believed to be in the running, as are Canadian poet Anne Carson and Egyptian feminist novelist Nawal el Saadawi. “The African continent is that which has received the fewest Nobel Literature Prizes,” said a critic for public radio network SR, Gunnar Bolin, who would like to see Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe be rewarded. The names of Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o and South African Karel Schoeman are also being mentioned. Syrian poet Adonis, American novelists Joyce Carol Oates and Don DeLillo, as well as Israel’s Amos Oz and the Netherlands’ Cees Nooteboom are also among “the usual suspects”. A less academic, but often effective way of getting an idea of who the laureate may be, is to check with online betting sites. On Wednesday, Ladbrokes favoured Murakami over Hungarian Peter Nadas, while the Japanese writer was ahead of China’s Mo Yan on Unibet. Munro was in fourth and third place on the respective sites. The Swedish Academy is known for its cloak-and-dagger methods to prevent any leaks about its choice, resorting to codenames for authors and fake book covers when reading in public. The list of nominees is never revealed and the jury’s deliberations are kept secret for half a century. This year’s laureate succeeds Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer and will receive 8 million kronor (HK$9.3 million), a sum that is down 20 per cent on previous years due to the financial crisis.