Asia markets climb as Bank of Japan keeps monetary policy steady

Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Japan Exchange Group logo is displayed on a glass door at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo, Japan.

Asia Pacific markets mostly traded higher on Friday as investors reacted to the Bank of Japan's monetary policy decision as well as an overnight vote from U.K. lawmakers that could potentially delay its exit from the European Union.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 retraced some of its gains but still rose 0.77 percent to 21,450.85 while the Topix index added 0.9 percent to 1,602.63. South Korea's Kospi was 0.95 percent higher at 2,176.11 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climbed 0.82 percent.

Chinese mainland shares also traded higher: The Shanghai composite was up 1.04 percent at 3,021.75 while the Shenzhen composite added 1.42 percent to 1,641.37.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Friday that Beijing will remain supportive of the Chinese economy as it faces new pressures on growth. He was speaking with reporters after the closing ceremony at the annual National People's Congress.

Australia's ASX 200 was near flat at 6,175.20 as the heavily weighted financial subindex fell 0.23 percent.

Central bank focus

The Bank of Japan kept its monetary policy steady on Friday in a widely expected move. The short-term interest rate will remain at minus 0.1 percent. The central bank said it will purchase Japanese government bonds so that the 10-year JGB yields will remain at around zero percent. Bond yields move inversely to price.

In its policy statement, the BOJ offered a relatively weak assessment of the Japanese economy and predicted it will "continue its moderate expansion, despite being affected by the slowdown in overseas economies for the time being."

Low inflation has forced the Bank of Japan to stick with a massive stimulus program despite rising costs.

The yen traded relatively flat at 111.67 to the dollar at 3:02 p.m. HK/SIN after weakening from levels near 111.00 earlier in the week.

Next week, four other Asian central banks are set to meet: Thailand, Taiwan, Philippines and Indonesia.

"While we expect all of them to stand pat on rates next week, the market will be scrutinising their policy statements and tone," analysts at ANZ Research said in a morning note, adding, "We have maintained that the dovish turn of the US Federal Reserve, coupled with underwhelming inflation in Asia, will open the door to monetary easing in the region."

The Fed is also due to meet next week.

*NIKKEI Nikkei 225 Index 21285.99 27.35 0.13
*HSI Hang Seng Index 28513.00 39.29 0.14
*ASX 200 S&P/ASX 200 6665.40 14.60 0.22
*SHANGHAI Shanghai 3008.15 6.17 0.21
*KOSPI KOSPI Index 2126.33 0.71 0.03
*CNBC 100 CNBC 100 ASIA IDX 8044.17 16.20 0.20

US-China trade

U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday the U.S. will probably know in the next three or four weeks about a possible trade deal with China.

Chinese negotiators, meanwhile, have suggested combining a long-discussed state visit by President Xi Jinping to the U.S. with the announcement of any forthcoming agreement — they also said Beijing wants a deal to be fully ironed out before Xi sat down with Trump.

For his part, Li on Friday did not disclose details on the latest progress of the trade talks. He emphasized that the United States and China remained in close discussions, and expressed confidence that both sides had enough wisdom to diffuse tensions.

On Thursday, U.K. lawmakers voted in favor of seeking a delayed departure from the European Union by at least three months. The vote was nonbinding, however, and the EU will have to agree to a delay. Brussels, for its part, has already said the U.K. needs to justify requesting such an extension beyond the current Mar. 29 deadline.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has already indicated that she will bring her much-maligned Brexit deal back in front of Parliament next week for another vote.

The British pound traded at $1.3253 at 3:08 p.m. HK/SIN after reaching a nine-month high of $1.3380 on Wednesday.

Friday's session in Asia followed a mixed day on Wall Street where the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite closed lower for the first time in four days.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of its peers, last traded at 96.646 after declining from levels above 97.500 in the previous week.

— Reuters and CNBC's Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

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