Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Monday, with Japanese shares bearing the brunt of the selling as investors adopted a cautious stance ahead of the Bank of Japan's policy-setting meeting. The central bank is widely expected to unveil fresh measures to stimulate the economy, including the adoption of a two percent inflation goal advocated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and an additional Y10 trillion in asset purchases.
Apprehensions among investors over the progress of U.S. debt ceiling talks and caution ahead of a slew of earnings reports from tech heavyweights such as Apple, Google, IBM, and Microsoft due this week also kept investors at bay.
Japanese shares fell sharply, as the yen's rebound from its weakest level in 2 1/2 years and caution ahead of the Bank of Japan's two-day policy meeting pulled down heavyweight shares sharply lower. The benchmark Nikkei average fell 1.5 percent, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange lost 0.7 percent. Heavyweight Fast Retailing tumbled 3.6 percent, while Fanuc slumped 3.9 percent. Exporters led the decliners on profit taking following sharp gains in recent sessions.
Automakers Honda Motor, Suzuki Motor and Mitsubishi Motors fell between 0.6 percent and 3.2 percent, TDK and Softbank fell about 2 percent each and engineering firm JGC, which said seven of its foreign workers remain missing after Algerian security forces ended a hostage crisis, dropped 2.7 percent.
Astellas Pharma edged up 0.1 percent and East Japan Railway advanced 0.7 percent on defensive buying, while Sumco rallied 2.7 percent on a brokerage upgrade.
Australian shares edged up marginally to hit a 20-month high, mirroring positive Wall Street cues. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.1 percent, while the broader All Ordinaries index gained 0.2 percent. BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto edged up about 0.1 percent each, while Newcrest Mining rose 1.1 percent on expectations gold prices may rise in the coming months as U.S. lawmakers reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling.
OZ Minerals gained 2.7 percent after announcing a 43 percent increase in the mineral-resource estimate at its Carrapateena deposit in South Australia. Sims Metal Management tumbled 5 percent after it warned of a writedown in its first-half results.
Among the major banks, NAB advanced 1.9 percent on reports Spain's Banco Santander is considering a STG2 billion offer for its troubled British businesses. ANZ rose 0.4 percent, but Commonwealth and Westpac fell about 0.4 percent each.
South Korea's Kospi average edged down 0.05 percent as investors remained apprehensive about fourth-quarter earnings. Tech heavyweight Samsung Electronics fell 1.8 percent, extending last week's losses, while automaker Hyundai Motors slipped 1.4 percent.
New Zealand stocks gained ground, led by heavyweights. The benchmark NZX-50 index rose half a percent in relatively light trading as many traders stayed away from their desks due to the Wellington Anniversary Day holiday and a public holiday in the U.S. Telecom rose 0.9 percent, Fletcher Building advanced 1.6 percent, Steel & Tube Holdings added 2 percent and Pumpkin Patch rallied 3 percent, while Trader me slipped 0.7 percent.
China's Shanghai Composite index rose half a percent, led by foreign currency-denominated Class B shares, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index edged down marginally.
Elsewhere, India's benchmark Sensex was moving up 0.2 percent and Singapore's Straits Times index rose 0.4 percent, while Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index fell 0.6 percent, the Taiwan Weighted average edged down marginally and Malaysia's KLSE Composite index retreated 2.4 percent.
U.S. stocks showed a lack of direction before ending mostly higher on Friday after House Republican leaders indicated they will hold a vote to authorize a three-month temporary debt limit increase to give lawmakers time to pass a budget that reduces spending.
Intel and Capital One reported disappointing results and data showed consumer sentiment in the U.S. unexpectedly fell in January, weighing on investor sentiment to some extent. The Dow rose 0.4 percent and the S&P 500 advanced 0.3 percent to hit five-year closing highs, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended down marginally.
by RTT Staff Writer
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