BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets wavered between gains and losses Tuesday after Japan's central bank ceded to political pressure and announced stimulus measures aimed at extricating the country from years of economic malaise.
The Bank of Japan concluded a two-day policy meeting by setting a 2 percent inflation target and announcing open-ended asset purchases that will pump money into the financial system.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pressuring the central bank to carry out aggressive stimulus measures to reverse years of economically debilitating deflation. The bank agreed, despite its ostensibly independent status.
Still, the measures were largely anticipated. Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.7 percent to 10,673.24 as the yen reversed some of its sharp drop against the greenback.
Trading elsewhere was less affected by events in Japan, and less cautious. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was nearly unchanged at 4,777.90. Hong Kong's Hang Seng reversed morning losses to rise 0.3 percent to 23,657.40. Mainland Chinese shares were mixed.
"Right now, they have their own personality and they will go on their own," Yip said of markets in Hong Kong and mainland China. "The market is in a good mood."
South Korea's Kospi rose 0.3 percent to 1,992.20 after Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan said the country will help exporters struggling with the rise of the won, Yonhap News Agency said.
The remarks come amid worries that quantitative easing moves by the U.S. and Japan could result in the further appreciation of the Korean currency.
The announcement helped some of the country's key exporters, including Samsung Electronics, which rose 1.7 percent. Hyundai Motor Co. rose 2.1 percent.
U.S. stock and bond markets were closed Monday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which coincided with the inauguration ceremonies that launched President Barack Obama's second term in office.
Concerns linger about the U.S. economy, with lawmakers wrangling over spending cuts and the nation's debt ceiling, which limits the amount of debt that the government can take on. The government has hit its $16.4 trillion debt limit and is expected to run out of ways to meet all of its obligations around March 1, perhaps earlier.
Although Republican lawmakers were expected to accept a temporary increase, a final deal is still not in sight.
Gary Yau of Credit Agricole CIB said that "any further news on the US debt ceiling after Obama's inauguration will again be closely scrutinized."
Benchmark oil for February delivery was down 4 cents to $96 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 9 cents to settle at $95.47 a barrel on the Nymex on Monday.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3343 from $1.3320 late Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 89.13 yen from 90.03 yen.
Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson
- Investment & Company Information