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Asian markets mixed, eyes on Bank of Japan policy

HONG KONG--Asian markets were mixed Monday, with Tokyo's Nikkei hit by a stronger yen and profit-taking after last week's rally, while dealers await the outcome of a policy meeting at the Bank of Japan (BOJ).

Wall Street provided a strong lead, with the Dow and S&P 500 hitting more than five-year highs Friday after Republicans proposed a three-month increase to the U.S. debt ceiling in order to agree a budget and long-term spending cuts.

Tokyo's Nikkei, which hit a 33-month high Friday, fell 1.52 percent, shedding 165.56 points to 10,747.74. Sydney closed up 0.13 percent, or 6.3 points, at 4,777.5.

Seoul ended flat, dipping 0.99 points to 1,986.86. Hong Kong was also barely changed, edging down 10.87 points to 23,590.91.

Chinese shares closed up 0.48 percent, extending Friday's gains after Beijing released data showing the economy grew faster than expected last year. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 11.15 points to 2,328.22 on turnover of 113 billion yuan (US$18.2 billion).

Policymakers at Japan's central bank on Monday began a two-day meeting that markets widely expect will see them adopt a two percent inflation target and unveil more monetary easing.

The yen has tumbled in recent months — sending the stock market surging — since Shinzo Abe promised before December's election that he would urge the bank to be more aggressive in its battle to save the economy.

Abe swept to power in the poll and has since moved to bring BOJ policies into line with his new government's position.

“All eyes are on the Bank of Japan, which should come through to meet expectations for more easing and some kind of inflation target rhetoric,” said SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi.

U.S. shares closed with a rally on Friday after the Republican offer to increase the nation's borrowing limit while a budget is agreed, providing hope that rival lawmakers will be able to reach a long-term fiscal agreement.

The government is due to reach its limit at some point around the end of February, while politicians also have to agree spending cuts that were put off as part of a fiscal cliff deal agreed at the start of the year.

On Wall Street the Dow rose 0.39 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.34 percent, with both indexes hitting highs not seen since December 2007. The Nasdaq finished flat.

Gold was at US$1,688.89 at 1100 GMT compared with US$1,689.88 late Friday.

In other markets:

— Singapore closed up 0.31 percent, or 10.10 points, at 3,221.32.

DBS Bank gained 0.14 percent to SG$14.40 and Fraser and Neave, the subject of a takeover tussle between Thai and Indonesian tycoons, gained 1.67 percent to SG$9.74, well above the highest offer of SG$9.55 a share.

— Manila added 0.53 percent, or 32.49 points, to 6,171.70.

— Wellington rose 0.50 percent, or 21.00 points, to 4,185.18.

Contact Energy was up 0.58 percent at NZ$5.19, Telecom added 1.07 percent to NZ$2.37 and Fletcher Building gained 1.64 percent to NZ$9.30.

— Jakarta fell 0.57 percent, or 25.51 points, to 4,439.97.

Palm oil firm Sinar Mas Agro Resources & Technology rose 3.08 percent to 6,700 rupiah and cigarette producer H.M. Sampoerna jumped 6.6 percent to 63,000 rupiah, while retailer Ramayana Lestari Sentosa dropped 2.52 percent to 1,160 rupiah.

— Kuala Lumpur tumbled 2.43 percent, or 40.81 points, to 1,635.63.

— Bangkok climbed 0.42 percent, or 6.04 points, to 1,440.48.

Telecoms giant True Corp. soared 8.93 percent to 6.10 baht while industrial group Loxley surged 7.55 percent to 5.70 baht.

— Mumbai rose 0.31 percent or 62.78 points to 20,101.82 points.

Reliance Industries jumped 2.35 percent to 920.05 rupees, while ITC gained 1.25 percent to end at 290.65 rupees.

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