Asian markets mostly up, eyes on Bank of Japan

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 percent, or 82.62 points, to 13,926.08, while Seoul gained 0.84 percent, or 16.29 points, to 1,951.60.

Hong Kong ended 0.98 percent, higher, adding 218.19 points to 22,401.24 but Shanghai fell 0.86 percent, or 19.01 points, to 2,199.31.

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 percent, 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 percent from February, which comes after 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.

The greenback bought 99.17 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 $1.3066 and 129.55 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 percent expansion compared to 0.3 percent 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 were mixed, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, up 23 cents at $91.66 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for June delivery falling nine cents to $101.64.

An ounce of gold fetched $1,446.51 at 0800 GMT, compared with $1,421.68 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Singapore rose 0.45 percent, or 15.00 points, to close at 3,337.21.

DBS Bank was up 1.25 percent at Sg$16.18 and real estate developer Capitaland was 2.58 percent higher at Sg$3.58.

-- Taipei finished flat, dipping 1.96 points to 8,021.75.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company rose 0.94 percent to Tw$107.0 while Hon Hai fell 0.9 percent to Tw$77.4.

-- Manila closed 0.33 percent higher, adding 23.01 points to 6,995.46.

Ayala Corp. rose 1.44 percent to 634 pesos and Aboitiz Equity Ventures added 1.8 percent to 57 pesos.

-- Jakarta fell 0.34 percent, or 17.08 points, to 4,994.52.

Car maker Astra International fell 5.77 percent to 7,350.00 rupiah while mobile phone provider Indosat lost 3.23 percent to 6,000 rupiah.

-- Kuala Lumpur ended flat, nudging down 1.01 points to 1,706.34.

-- Bangkok jumped 1.31 percent, or 20.40 points, to 1,574.25.

-- Mumbai rose 1.19 percent or 227.49 points at 19,406.85 points.

Jet Airways rose 10.69 percent to 635.2 rupees after a deal with Etihad while Tata Motors rose 4.21 percent to 293.25 rupees.


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