Asia Markets

Asia shares higher, central banks in focus; Australia outperforms in April

Asian stocks rose on the last trading day of April as investors concentrated on central bank policy decisions in Japan and the U.S.

As widely expected, the Bank of Japan left monetary policy steady by a unanimous vote in its first meeting since the consumption tax hike on April 1. Attention now turns to the central bank's semi-annual report, which is due at 3pm local time.

Later in the day, the U.S. Federal Reserve will end its two-day meeting in Washington, where policy makers are expected to announce a fourth cut in monthly bond purchases.

For the month of April, Australia's was the region's top performer with gains of 2.3 percent while Japan's underperformed with losses of 2.7 percent. South Korea's Kospi fell 1 percent while the Shanghai Composite eased 0.7 percent.

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Nikkei up 0.1%

Japanese shares pared gains after rising nearly 1 percent earlier in the session. The benchmark index was also playing catch up with the region following Tuesday's public holiday.

Weak economic data weighed on sentiment; industrial output missed estimated in March while April's manufacturing activity contracted for the fist time in over a year.

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Further easing is inevitable for BOJ: Macquarie
Further easing is inevitable for BOJ: Macquarie

Softbank added 0.5 percent percent after Sprint, which the Japanese firm owns 80 percent of, reported a rise in tablet sales and fewer subscribers leaving than expected.

Ceramics manufacturer Kyocera and Mitsubishi Electric rose 3 percent on upbeat guidance for the year ahead.

Earnings season continues in full-swing with Nomura, Kirin, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways all due to report later in the day.

Shanghai Composite up 0.3%

Mainland shares extended gains into a second session, retreating further from Monday's one-month low, but the mood was quiet ahead of a four-day weekend starting Thursday. Markets will resume trading on Monday.

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In earnings news, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China declined 0.3 percent despite first-quarter net profit beating estimates while Chalco fell 1.6 percent after posting a $345 million loss in the first three months of the year.

Investors also reacted to new comments on economic growth. The China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said that gross-domestic product could come as low as 7 percent this year while a government think thank revised its 2014 growth forecast to 7.4 percent, below the official 7.5 percent target.

Have central bank meetings become non events?
Have central bank meetings become non events?

Kospi slips 0.2%

South Korean shares erased earlier gains to close at a one-month low for a third straight session after March industrial output data missed expectations.

Steep declines in blue-chip stocks also weighed on the benchmark Kospi index. Hyundai Motor lost 1.7 percent while LG Electronics tumbled more than 4 percent.

Meanwhile, the rose 3 percent for the month of April, its biggest monthly gain in nearly a year,

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ASX flat

Australia's benchmark bounced between gains and losses in choppy trade as weakness in banks weighed on the sentiment. Westpac led losses by 0.7 percent.

Brambles fell over 1 percent despite posting a 6 percent rise in sales revenue for the July-March period.

Woolworths lost 2 percent despite third-quarter sales jumping an annual 5.3 percent . That sparked losses for other retailers; Wesfarmers fell 0.7 percent and JB Hi-Fi eased 0.5 percent.

India gains 0.5%

Indian shares snapped their three-day losing streak thanks to strong foreign buying.