Asian markets mostly up after weak Wall St lead

Asian markets mostly up after weak Wall St lead

HONG KONG - Asian markets were mostly up on Thursday in quiet trade after an anaemic close on Wall Street, while the dollar's recent rally seemed to have levelled out just short of the 100 yen mark.

With few catalysts driving action, eyes are moving to Friday's policy decision by the Bank of Japan to see if it adds to the huge stimulus measures unveiled earlier this month as part of a drive to kickstart the economy.

Tokyo added 0.60 per cent, or 82.62 points, to 13,926.08, while Seoul gained 0.84 per cent, or 16.29 points, to 1,951.60 and Taipei finished flat, dipping 1.96 points to 8,021.75.

In the afternoon Hong Kong was up 1.11 per cent and Shanghai was flat.

Sydney and Wellington were closed for a public holiday.

Investors were unable to add to Wednesday's healthy advances after the weak US lead.

On Wall Street the Dow fell 0.29 per cent, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq were flat after weak earnings from AT&T and Procter & Gamble.

Adding to selling pressure was data showing US durable goods orders plunged 5.7 per cent from February, adding to recent figures pointing to weakness in the world's largest economy.

Tokyo's Nikkei managed to edge out a positive close by lunch, continuing to rally on the back of a soft yen.

However the dollar dipped on Thursday, still unable to break the 100 yen barrier last seen in April 2009.

In afternoon Tokyo trade the greenback bought 99.20 yen, against 99.51 yen in New York late Wednesday. The US unit has enjoyed a strong run since the start of April, when the BoJ announced its scheme of huge spending to drag the economy out of years of deflation.

The euro bought $1.3046 and 129.38 yen, compared with $1.3013 and 129.50 yen in New York.

In Seoul traders were cheered by data showing the economy grew at its fastest pace in two years during the January-March quarter.

The 0.9 per cent expansion compared to 0.3 per cent in the final quarter of 2012 and was the strongest growth rate since January-March 2011 and is likely to dent expectations of a central bank interest rate cut later this year.

Oil prices rose, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, up 47 cents at $91.90 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for June delivery rising 40 cents to $102.13.

An ounce of gold fetched $1,443.55 at 0600 GMT, compared with $1,421.68 late Wednesday.

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