Asia’s shares are generally higher after the US holidays; BOJ stands pat
Asian stocks were mostly higher on Tuesday amid the lack of major market news after a U.S. holiday
The Bank of Japan concluded a two-day policy meeting with no major changes. The benchmark interest rate remains at a level of minus 0.1%.
Benchmarks in Japan, China and Australia rose in early trading, but stocks fell in South Korea. US futures contracts rose slightly. US markets were closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Day.
Japan’s central bank’s super accommodative monetary policy was expected to remain unchanged for the time being, as the country grapples with an increase in cases of COVID infections triggered by the omicron variant.
The recent sudden increase in reported cases is likely to dampen economic activity. Japan, which has had no shutdowns, went through periods of restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, with most restaurants and bars closing early. These restrictions are expected to expand this week to about a third of the country, including Tokyo.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.9% to 28,593.40. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.1% to 7,424.60. The South Korean Kospi edged down 0.1% to 2,887.47. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.3% to 24,296.64, while the Shanghai Composite rose 0.4% to 3,554.23.
Asia has lagged behind the West in vaccine recalls. About 80% of the Japanese population, for example, received two injections and about 1% the third inoculation.
Signs of inflation are also worrying policy makers. Price increases in Japan were less pronounced than in the United States and some other countries, although the central bank raised its inflation forecast for the fiscal year which begins in April to 1.1% against an estimate previous 0.9%.
Concerns are high that rising COVID cases could hurt manufacturing in Asian countries, especially China.
Earlier this week, China announced that its economy grew at an annual rate of 8.1% in 2021. The weakness of the Chinese economy towards the end of 2021 suggested that Beijing should support growth with interest rate cuts or spending on public works.
“Overall sentiments may still tilt towards some caution as some market participants may refrain from taking more risk. Fed ahead of the FOMC meeting next week,” said Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG in Singapore.
In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.12 to $84.94 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained $1.70 to $83.82 a barrel on Monday.
Brent crude, the international standard, added 95 cents to $87.43 a barrel.
In currency trading, the US dollar fell from 114.62 yen to 114.73 Japanese yen. The euro traded at $1.1422, down from $1.1410 previously.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
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