Asia report: Most markets higher as Bank of Japan stands pat



The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady and pushed back again the timing for achieving its 2 percent inflation target on Thursday, reinforcing expectations it will lag well behind major global central banks in dialing back its massive stimulus program.

Such efforts will raise labor productivity and could weigh on inflation, though the downward pressure exerted on prices will be temporary as Japan's potential growth heightens, it said. The yen dropped after Japanese policy makers delayed the time-frame for reaching their inflation target - a sign stimulus will be in place for a while to come.

-The S&P 500 closed essentially unchanged after an up-and-down session. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 42.60 points or 0.73 percent to 5,763.10. The company's shares are down 0.6 percent.

-The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index added 0.8 percent to the highest in a month.

Among oil stocks, Oil Search is losing nearly 2 percent, Woodside Petroleum is down more than 1 percent and Santos is lower by 0.3 percent.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 45.70 points or 0.79 percent to 5,715.80, off a low of 5,709.60.

Overnight, the major USA averages rose between 0.3 percent and 0.6 percent to hit fresh record highs, with sentiment underpinned by rising oil prices, better-than-expected corporate earnings and upbeat housing data.

-The MSCI Emerging Market index advanced less than 0.1 percent.

Currency markets were hemmed in tight ranges in early trades, with the dollar edging higher from a 10-month low tested earlier this week.

While suffering against the euro, the dollar also weakened overall against a basket of major currencies. But it was still near Tuesday's more than one-year high against the greenback of US$1.1583.

The big four banks climbed 1-3 percent to extend Wednesday's gains after the bank regulator outlined its new "capital adequacy" targets, which weren't as tough as initially feared.

-West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.7 percent to $46.79 a barrel, reversing earlier gains. Hong Kong's Hang Seng inched down less than 0.1 percent to 26,729.08.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, touching its lowest level in almost five months, suggesting strong job gains that should continue to underpin economic growth.

The Polish zloty has been one of the world's top performing currencies this year following a pick up in the country's growth, but it has faced pressure this week on the possibility of European Union action against Warsaw over a controversial judicial shake-up. The benchmark Kospi rose 11.90 points or 0.49 percent to 2,441.84, led by large-cap stocks such as Samsung Electronics, Posco and SK Innovation.

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