BANGKOK (AP) — Japan's Nikkei 225 index topped 12,000 for the first time in more than four years, but stock markets elsewhere in Asia flagged following Wall Street's eye-popping performance this week.
Investors shied away from stocks even though the Dow Jones industrial average reached a new high for a second day Wednesday and the Federal Reserve said the U.S. economy grew in the first two months of the year.
The Nikkei in Tokyo was up 0.6 percent at 12,005.55 as investors waited for the Bank of Japan to wrap up a two-day meeting. It was to be the last headed by Masaaki Shirakawa, who steps down March 19. The incoming chief, Haruhiko Kuroda, is expected to ease monetary policy to support the policies of new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
A former vice minister of finance, Kuroda has long voiced his support for bolder central bank policies and for a weaker currency to help boost export manufacturers by making their products cheaper in overseas markets.
"The BOJ will remain under pressure to ease policy throughout 2013. The next round of substantive easing is likely to come in April at the earliest, after the new governor takes office," said analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore.
Disappointing trade figures pulled Australian stocks down. Australia's trade deficit widened to 1.06 billion Australian dollars in January, official figures show. Economists had expected a deficit of about half that.
On top of that, data on Australia's economy released Wednesday showed 0.6 percent growth in the fourth quarter compared to the previous three-month period. But there were also worrisome signs, analysts said, with a cooling mining sector expected to weigh on stocks in the coming months.
"Yesterday's GDP data wasn't all rosy. Business investment fell sharply, sending another signal that the mining boom is coming to an end. Today's trade data was bit worse than expected, and that probably explains most of today's pull back," said Daniel Martin of Capital Economics in Singapore.
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