By PAMELA SAMPSON, Associated Press
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were mixed Thursday, as investors weighed an interest rate cut in South Korea against rising inflation in China.
South Korea's Kospi index jumped 1.2 percent to 1,972.70 after the Bank of Korea lowered its benchmark interest rate for the first time in seven months.
In announcing that it was lowering the rate by a quarter percentage point to 2.5 percent, the Bank of Korea became the latest central bank to take steps to boost flagging economic growth.
"Overall sentiment continues to be dictated by central bank actions and hopes of more policy accommodation," said analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index shed its morning gains and was down 0.3 percent to 14,246.07. Shares of Toyota Motor Corp., the world's top-selling auto maker, rose 0.3 percent a day after reporting that its quarterly profit more than doubled. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and the Philippines rose.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.5 percent to 23,134.51 after the Chinese government issued a report showing that inflation rose slightly in April, which could temper any stimulus response by Beijing to China's shaky economic recovery. The rise was driven by a 4 percent gain in food costs.
"The inflation was a little bit higher than expected, especially food prices," said Francis Lun, chief economist at GE Oriental Financial Group. "That shows the central bank cannot relax monetary policy just yet. So that brought down the market today."
Additionally, government data released Wednesday showed April trade growth accelerating, but Lun said export figures might be inflated and China's recovery might be weaker than it looks.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average closed above 15,000 for a second day, yet another record finish. The Dow climbed 0.3 percent to end at 15,105.12. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.4 percent, to 1,632.69. The Nasdaq composite index gained 0.5 percent, to 3,413.27.
Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 10 cents to $96.52 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1 to finish at $96.62 a barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday, its highest level since April 2.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3157 from $1.3159 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar fell to 98.73 from 98.82 yen.
Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.