Asia Ends Mixed; BOJ Meeting Eyed
Asian shares ended mixed on Monday, taking a breather after hitting multi-month highs. Investors turned their attention to the Bank of Japan's (BOJ) two-day policy meeting amid expectations for bold monetary easing measures.
In Japan, Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei average lost ground on profit taking, with forecasts for aggressive easing already mostly priced into the market.
The Nikkei closed down 1.5 percent to 10,747.74 points, moving further away from a 32-month high of 10,952.31 hit last Tuesday. The broader Topix dropped 0.7 percent to 905.16.
Sharp Corp lost over 3 percent after two sources told Reuters that the company has nearly halted production of 9.7-inch screens for Apple's iPad, possibly as demand shifts to its smaller iPad mini.
In Korea, weakness in exporters limited gains for the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), which ended down 0.1 percent.
The outlook for exporters was soured by expectations that this week's Bank of Japan meeting will lead to continued weakness in the yen, which should give a price advantage to their Japanese rivals.
(Read More: Yen Sees No Reprieve as BOJ Meeting Looms)
Blue-chips were mostly down. Tech and auto shares slipped, with market heavyweight Samsung Electronics falling 1.8 percent while Hyundai Motor Co slid 1.4 percent.
Australian shares, however, inched higher to hit a 20-month closing high in quiet trade, helped by gains in National Australia Bank on a report that a Spanish bank is interested in its British business.
The S&P/ASX 200 index finished the day 6.3 points higher at 4,777.5, building on a 1.3 percent climb last week, the biggest weekly gain in seven weeks. Trade was subdued with Wall Street closed later in the day for a holiday.
National Australia Bank climbed 1.9 percent to A$26.85, a three-month high, after the Sunday Times reported that Spain's Banco Santander is considering a $3.2 billion bid for its UK assets.
NAB scrapped plans to sell 337 Clydesdale and Yorkshire bank branches last April, having struggled to attract a buyer, and instead announced plans to shrink the business, cutting 1,400 jobs.
QBE Insurance Group jumped 3.3 percent after announcing it is may cut 700 jobs as part of cost reduction measures.
Iron ore miners were slightly firmer. Rio Tinto was up 0.2 percent while rival BHP Billiton inched up 0.1 percent.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index added 0.5 percent, or 21 points to end the day at 4,185.2.
Hong Kong shares slipped from a 19-1/2 month high, with China's second-largest telecommunication equipment maker ZTE Corp weaker after a profit warning.
ZTE Corp shed 1.4 percent after China's second-largest telecom equipment maker issued a profit warning for 2012. This contrasted with its larger rival, the unlisted Huawei Technologies, which bounced back from a disappointing 2011 with a 33 percent rise in net profit for 2012, and forecast stronger revenue growth, buoyed by smartphone sales and cloud computing.
The Chinese shipping sector was lifted after China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL) said on Friday that it expects to post a net profit for 2012 after reporting a loss the year before.
CSCL jumped 3.9 percent, also helped by a mainland news report that Beijing is working out a plan to help the sector, involving tax and other financial support likely to be rolled out in the first half of the year.
Onshore Chinese shares climbed to a successive 7-1/2 month high, helped by a surge for property developer Vanke after the company announced plans to relist its B shares in Hong Kong.
The CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings closed up 0.6 percent at 2,610.9. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.5 percent. They each closed at their highest since June 1, 2012.
China Vanke's A and B share listings in Shenzhen each soared by the maximum-allowed 10 percent after the country's largest property developer by sales became the second firm to leave the mainland's moribund B-share market.
(Read More: China Vanke Shares Soar on B-Share Market Exit)
Its shares were trading for the first time since they were suspended December 26.
Shares of Singapore's Fraser and Neave (F&N) gained after a Thai group raised its takeover offer for the property and beverages conglomerate. By midday, F&N was up 1.4 percent at S$9.71, above the latest S$9.55 a share offer from Thailand's TCC Assets.
India's BSE index finished up 0.25 percent to its highest close since January 6, 2011, while the 50-share NSE index ended 0.26 percent higher, marking its highest close since January 4, 2011.