ASIA MARKETS: Asian Markets Pull Back Ahead Of BOJ Rate Announcement

By Kenan MachadoFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Investors unimpressed by lack of details in Trump's tax plan

Stock markets in Asia were broadly lower early Thursday, tracking overnight weakness on Wall Street with investors cautious ahead of the Bank of Japan's policy statement for any signs of scaling back of easy money policies.

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The Nikkei Stock Average was down 0.4% despite a weaker yen. The dollar was last at Yen111.250, recovering from a low of Yen110.914 during U.S. trading. Among major decliners, messaging firm Line Corp. (3938.TO) lost 9.4%, while Nomura (8604.TO) and Dai-ichi Life (8750.TO) each dropped by more than 1%.

The Bank of Japan, which concludes a two-day policy meeting later Thursday, was widely expected to keep rates and its pace of asset purchases unchanged, analysts say.

However, investors are concerned about market impact if the BOJ signals a cut to purchasing Japanese government bonds, or have plans to taper its purchases of exchange-traded funds.

Elsewhere in the region, the Shanghai Composite Index was off 1%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.4% and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was flat.

Declines in the region also followed from disappointment on the lack of details on the much-touted Trump tax plan, which was unveiled overnight. U.S. stocks gave up their gains late in Wednesday's session, with the key indexes ending slightly lower.

"There is plenty of quibbling about a lack of detail -- given it was a one-pager," said Greg McKenna, a chief market strategist at forex broker AxiTrader.

Any upside over news of a tax cut was already priced into global markets reflecting the lack of a major jump following the announcement, analysts say.

"To be fair, the tax cuts were massive," said Vishnu Varathan, a senior economist at Mizuho Bank. But the absence of details over funding the estimated $5.5 trillion bill over the next 10 years cast doubt on the sustainability of these cuts even if it gets approved, he said.

In South Korea, the benchmark Kospi fell 0.3% on profit-taking, following better-than-expected first-quarter gross domestic product data. Economic output grew a seasonally adjusted 0.9% in the first quarter from the previous three months, beating a median forecast for a 0.7% expansion.

Meanwhile, shares in technology heavyweight Samsung (005930.SE) rose 1.4%, after the world's largest smartphone maker by revenue reported a 46% year-over-year rise in first-quarter net profit. Demand for its semiconductors and flexible display panels helped the company post its highest quarterly profit in more than three years.

But stocks of other exporters in the country were down on a stronger won following a recent influx of foreign capital into stocks. Hyundai (005380.SE) was down 1.3%, with skin care major Amorepacific (090430.SE) off 0.5%.

In Hong Kong, shares of AIA Group (1299.HK) rose 3.7% after the pan-Asian insurer Thursday said its value of new business rose 55% from the same quarter last year on a constant-currency basis. New business is a key performance indicator in the insurance industry.

In other banking stocks, Standard Chartered's Hong Kong shares (STAN.LN) gained 3.4% after the Asia-focused lender reported a near doubling of first-quarter profit before tax, thanks in part to a sharp drop in bad loans.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 26, 2017 23:20 ET (03:20 GMT)