Asia stocks up ahead of Bank of Japan decision

Associated Press + More

By PAMELA SAMPSON, Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets rose early Wednesday, as investors held onto hopes that the Bank of Japan would conclude a two-day policy meeting by announcing steps to help jumpstart the world's No. 3 economy.

"The policy decision could have a significant bearing on how the Nikkei and the rest of the region trades today," said Stan Shamu of IG Markets in Melbourne, Australia.

Investors are also awaiting data on U.S. housing starts and existing home sales to be released later in the day.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.3 percent to 9,146.62. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.4 percent to 20,674.27 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 4,402.80. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and mainland China also rose. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.5 percent to 1,995.09.

Wall Street posted mixed results Tuesday after FedEx, the world's second-largest package delivery company, cut its outlook for global growth and industrial production while slashing the forecast for company earnings.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that the current account deficit, the broadest measure of American trade, dropped 12.1 percent in the second quarter. That's down from a record high in the January-through-March quarter.

The deficit shrank because of an increase in American exports and cheaper oil, although economists expect it to grow again because of the global slowdown.

Markets had rallied sharply last week after the Federal Reserve announced aggressive measures intended to kick-start the economy and spur job growth.

The Fed will purchase an average of $40 billion a month in mortgage-backed securities until the economy shows significant improvement. The goal is to lower long-term interest rates and encourage more borrowing and spending. The Fed also said it plans to keep its benchmark short-term interest rate near zero until mid-2015.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose marginally to close at 13,564.64. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.1 percent to 1,459.32. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.03 percent to 3,177.80.

Benchmark oil for October delivery rose 29 cents to $95.58 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.33 to finish at $95.29 a barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3047 from $1.3036. The dollar fell to 78.61 yen from 78.86 yen.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.