Asian markets remain subdued as Bank of Japan holds firm

Guy Bentley
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Asian markets are holding steady after the Bank of Japan maintained its stance on monetary policy and disappointed some investors with a refusal to hike purchases of risk assets.

Japan's current account balance showed a surplus for the first time in five months in February, this was attributed to strengthening exports and an increase in income from overseas investments.

Japan's trade deficit has widened in recent months, possibly because of consumers bringing forward spending ahead of April's sales tax hike. However, household spending is forecast to fall significantly in the coming months, leading to a narrowing of the trade deficit.

Capital Economics inflation monitor for China showed seasonal volatility in food inflation continuing to cause swings in consumer price inflation. Since there is little sign that the Chinese central bank intends to embark on a major loosening of monetary policy, the government's inflation target is likely to remain intact.

Investors were unnerved by developments in Ukraine, with pro-Russian protestors declaring an independent republic in the eastern part of the country. Ukrainian officials fear the protests may be part of a Russian operation to justify an invasion.

The Nikkei is down just over one per cent, while the Topix is also suffering declines of 1.7 per cent. However, the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index is enjoying gains of 1.3 per cent, with the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index also up by 0.8 per cent. South Korea's Kospi is up 0.1 per cent.