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Asian markets slip, Bank of Japan meeting in focus

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Asian markets slipped Thursday as Tokyo awaited the outcome of a closely watched Bank of Japan policy meeting, while Seoul stumbled on growing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The dollar slid further against the yen after suffering a sell-off on Wednesday, with dealers fearing the BoJ will disappoint when it announces its latest measures to kickstart the Japanese economy.

Tokyo fell 1.72 percent by the break and Sydney slipped 0.73 percent.

Seoul was 1.89 percent lower 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.

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

The focus is mainly on Japan, where Haruhiko Kuroda is due to wrap up his first meeting as central bank governor. He is expected to unveil fresh monetary easing measures in a bid to achieve an inflation target of 2.0 percent.

The yen has tumbled in recent months on the likelihood Kuroda, a proponent of aggressive monetary easing, will usher in broader measures. However, investors are nervous his announcement will not meet expectations.

David Scutt, a dealer at Arab Bank, wrote in a note to clients that without any big measures "there is a more than reasonable chance that the board may well disappoint", according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Hiroichi Nishi, SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities, added: "It's entirely possible that while the BoJ will make some (announcements) over monetary policy easing, it may wait until the second central bank meeting on April 26 to do more."

The dollar, which touched 96.00 yen last month, bought 92.85 yen in early Asian trade, against 92.96 yen in New York Wednesday.

The euro fetched $1.2848 and 119.31 yen compared with $1.2845 and 119.43 yen.

Wall Street provided a soft lead, with the Dow losing 0.76 percent and the S&P 500 down 1.05 percent 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 are weighing 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 rose, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, adding four cents to $94.49 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for May delivery increasing 34 cents to $107.45.

Gold was at $1,543.10 an ounce at 0250 GMT compared with $1,570.09 late on Wednesday.

dan/jw

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130404/asian-markets-slip-bank-japan-meeting-focus