Asian markets mostly up, Tokyo extends losses

Asian markets mostly up, Tokyo extends losses

HONG KONG - Asian markets were mostly higher Wednesday thanks to a Wall Street rally but Tokyo extended the previous day's fall as the yen strengthened following a Bank of Japan monetary policy shift.

Tokyo fell 0.88 per cent but Hong Kong added 0.19 per cent, Sydney was 0.21 per cent higher and Seoul climbed 0.12 per cent while Shanghai was up 0.18 per cent.

Japan's Nikkei was hit after the central bank said Tuesday it would fall into line with the new government and set a two per cent inflation target, while also launching an unlimited asset-buying scheme from next year.

The bank also lifted its growth forecast, predicting gross domestic product would expand 2.3 per cent in the year ended March 2014, up from an earlier 1.6 per cent estimate.

But the BoJ moves were in line with expectations, which have seen the yen tumble against the dollar and euro, in turn sending equities flying higher.

"The BoJ monetary policy announcement came so completely within range of market expectations that it rang as a disappointment," SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi told Dow Jones Newswires.

The yen began rising soon after Tuesday's announcement and rose further in New York trade. However, it stabilised in Tokyo early Wednesday.

The greenback - which hit a two-and-a-half-year high of 90.24 yen (S$1.25) before the BoJ move - bought 88.66 yen in morning trade, against 88.68 yen in New York on Tuesday.

The euro - which topped 120 yen last week - also slipped to 118.08 yen Wednesday, from 118.14 yen in New York and to $1.3315 (S$1.60) from $1.3321.

Regional markets were given a lift by Wall Street, which posted healthy gains Tuesday following a long weekend, thanks to stronger-than-expected earnings results, including from The Travelers Companies and DuPont.

The Dow rose 0.46 per cent, the S&P 500 added 0.44 per cent and the Nasdaq ended up 0.27 per cent.

Oil prices were higher, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, gaining seven cents to $96.75 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March up six cents to $112.48.

Gold was at $1,693.50 at 0230 GMT compared with $1,692.41 late Tuesday.

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