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Market Update

Asian Markets Gain; BoJ in Focus

Most Asian markets posted solid gains Thursday amid some encouraging corporate news after the Bank of Japan said it would continue with its asset purchase program and keep interest rates unchanged.

The Nikkei was up 0.5% at the time of writing. Australia's S&P/ASX All Ordinaries gained 0.8%, touching its highest level since September 2008 amid upbeat earnings.

The Hang Seng, which resumed trading today, rose 0.9% even as mainland Chinese markets continued to remain shut for the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays.

Mumbai's Sensex was trading flat, however.

The Bank of Japan concluded its monetary policy meet today and left its policy interest rates and the size of its asset purchase program unchanged. Speculations were rife the central bank would expand its asset purchase program soon after the appointment of a new governor in the second quarter.

These speculations gained ground after data showed Japan's economy contracted for the third straight quarter during the October-December period.

In currencies, the yen slipped slightly against the dollar on heels of the policy announcement. The USD/JPY pair was up 0.18% at 93.58 at the time of writing, as compared with 93.42 touched in late North American trading on Wednesday.

Stocks on the move

Corporate news were in focus across the region.

In Tokyo, Asahi Group Holdings posted a record fiscal-year profit and said it will buy back around 4.3% of its stock. Shares of the beer manufacturer surged nearly 7% in response.

Yokohama Rubber Company vaulted over 11% after the company said its fiscal-year net profit increased more than twice-fold.

Among other gainers, chipmakers Advantest Corp. and Sumco Corp. improved 4.8% and 3.5% respectively. Mitsubishi Materials bounced over 5%

In Hong Kong, property developers notched higher. China Resources Land surged over 6% while Poly Property Group rose 4%.

Financials supported with index heavyweight HSBC Holdings, up 2.8%, while Bank of Communications gained 3.1%. ICBC rose 2.5% and China Construction Bank added 2.3%.

In company news, energy giant CNOOC said it received approval from U.S. regulators to acquire Canada's Nexen Inc. for $15 billion. Shares of CNOOC were up 2.3%.

In Mumbai, stocks traded flat ahead of the inflation numbers later in the day.

On the earnings front, Tata Motors dropped 2% while SBI lost 1.4% ahead of their quarterly results.

Among other decliners, Bharti Airtel dropped over 3.5% , Wipro lost 2.9% while Maruti Suzuki eased 2.2% after the car manufacturer was excluded from the MSCI benchmark.

In Australia, a handful of upbeat corporate announcements pushed the benchmark index higher.

Wesfarmers rose 1.2% after the conglomerate said its first-half net profit increased 9.3% on account of strong sales at its Coles supermarket chain.

Dexus Property Group dropped 1% despite posting a strong rise in first-half profit while Mirvac Group also declined 1% as the company's half-year net profit slumped 69%.

In the mining segment, Rio Tinto rose 2.3% ahead of its earnings release while BHP Billiton gained 2.7%. Fortescue Metals Group advanced 4.3%.

Alumina Ltd. bounced over 7% after the miner announced that CITIC Resources Holdings Ltd. of Hong Kong will take a 13% stake in the firm. Shares of Citic were up 1.7% on the Hang Seng.