Asian markets mostly down, Tokyo surges on BoJ move

Tokyo shares bounced and the yen tumbled Thursday after Japan unveiled more aggressive monetary easing, but other Asian markets slipped, with Seoul hit by growing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The yen sank against the dollar and the euro after the Bank of Japan (BoJ), in its first meeting under a new governor, announced a raft of measures aimed at ending decades of deflation and dragging the economy out of years of insipid growth.

Tokyo jumped 2.20 percent, or 272.34 points, to 12,634.45. The Nikkei index had slumped as much as 2.3 percent in the morning, with dealers concerned new BoJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda would fall short on promises to boost the economy.

Seoul fell 1.20 percent, or 23.77 points, to 1,959.45 after North Korea blocked access to its Kaesong joint industrial zone with South Korea for the second day running. There were also reports that Pyongyang has moved a medium-range missile to its east coast.

Sydney fell 0.89 percent, or 44.2 points, to close at 4,913.5.

Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei were closed for a public holiday.

After a two-day meeting the BoJ said it would embark on an aggressive spending programme, boosting asset purchases including Japanese government bonds, while pledging to meet a two percent inflation target within two years.

The moves would see the BoJ "enter a new phase of monetary easing both in terms of quantity and quality", it said in statement.

It also pointed to an uptick in Japan's economy, which has suffered a mixed bag of data lately without any clear sign of a firm recovery.

Yuji Saito, director of foreign exchange at Credit Agricole in Tokyo, called the news a "positive surprise" for markets.

And Junko Nishioka, Chief Economist at RBS Securities Japan, in a note: "The market had concerns about the BoJ announcing any policy actions today, but the BOJ's decisions exceeded investor expectations."

The appointment of Kuroda has sent the yen tumbling this year as he vowed big measures to achieve a two percent inflation goal to kick-start the economy.

However, investors began moving back into the unit recently amid fears the new governor would not deliver the aggressive policy he had promised.

Monetary easing tends to push down the value of a country's currency as it means more cash floods into the market.

In afternoon forex trade, the dollar surged as high as 95.46 yen on the announcement, after sitting around 92.71 earlier in the day. The euro also jumped to 122.11 yen from 119.39 yen but it fell to $1.2800 from $1.2845 after weak German services data.

Wall Street provided a soft lead to Asian markets, with the Dow losing 0.76 percent and the S&P 500 down 1.05 percent a day after they both struck fresh record highs. The Nasdaq gave up 1.11 percent.

US traders sold up after disappointing private sector jobs data and weak service sector growth figures.

Fears over the Korean peninsula weighed on Seoul, as Pyongyang ratchets up its war rhetoric.

Tensions have soared since December, when North Korea test-launched a long-range rocket. In February, it upped the ante once again by conducting its third nuclear test.

Subsequent UN sanctions and joint South Korea-US military drills triggered weeks of near-daily threats from Pyongyang, ranging from artillery strikes to nuclear Armageddon.

Oil prices were mixed, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, down one cent at $94.44 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for May adding 27 cents to $107.38.

Gold was at $1,544.90 an ounce at 1030 GMT compared with $1,570.09 late on Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Singapore fell 0.42 percent, or 13.97 points, to close at 3,307.80.

United Overseas Bank shed 1.49 percent to Sg$20.46 and Singapore Airlines eased 0.64 percent to Sg$10.85.

-- Manila closed 0.46 percent lower, shedding 31.58 points to 6,783.72.

SM Investments fell 0.26 percent to 1,136 pesos and Philippine Long Distance Telephone was off 0.48 percent at 2,896 pesos, while Alliance Global Group eased 0.24 percent to 21 pesos.

-- Wellington rose 0.39 percent, or 17.32 points, to 4,430.17.

Telecom added 0.82 percent to NZ$2.47, Fletcher Building rose 1.78 percent to NZ$8.60 and Contact Energy gained 1.11 percent to close at NZ$5.45.

-- Jakarta fell 1.18 percent, or 58.86 points, to 4,922.61.

Car maker Astra International fell 3.14 percent to 7,700 rupiah, while cement maker Indocement Tunggal Prakarsa rose 3.23 percent to 24,000 rupiah.

-- Kuala Lumpur added 0.18 percent, or 3.06 points, to 1,688.46.

IOI Corp gained 3.6 percent to 4.86 ringgit, UEM Land added 3.3 percent to 2.82 ringgit and Astro Malaysia lost 1.4 percent to 2.85 ringgit.

-- Bangkok added 0.52 percent or 7.94 points to 1,528.46.

Bangchak Petroleum rose 2.14 percent to 35.75 baht, while supermarket operator Big C jumped 3.24 percent to 223.00 baht.

-- Mumbai fell 1.55 percent or 291.94 points at 18,509.7 points, a near-five-month-low and its second straight day of losses. Tata Steel fell 3.97 percent to 304.4 rupees while Infosys fell 2.74 percent to 2,882.85

dan/ia