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Market Update

Nikkei Outshines Listless Asia

Most Asian markets ended with losses on Wednesday but Japanese stocks extended gains after the Bank of Japan kept its asset-purchase program steady.

The Nikkei closed 1.6% at 15,527 -- hitting another 5 1/2 year high in today's session as investors cheered the central bank's decision to keep monetary policy unchanged. 

The Bank of Japan concluded its two-day policy meeting today, and observed that the economy had started picking up. 

Elsewhere in the region, trading lacked fervour. Mumbai's Sensex slipped 0.2%, the Shanghai Composite eased 0.1% while  theS&P/ASX All Ordinaries pulled back 0.3%.

Trading in Hong Kong was delayed because of heavy rains and flooding. The Hang Seng opened for trade at 1 p.m. local time, only to finish 0.5% lower.

In economic news, data released earlier today showed consumer confidence in Australia dropped 7% this month, marking the biggest drop since December 2011. It is the first time the reading has declined below the 100-mark. A reading below 100 indicates consumers are not optimistic about the economy.

A separate report showed Japan's trade deficit widened sharply in April with imports surging and export growth being lackluster during the month. 

Stocks on the move

Tokyo-listed exporters were mostly higher. Sony Corp. jumped around 6% amid reports the company board would likely consider a proposal to spin off its entertainment unit.

Panasonic Corp. and Canon Corp. added more than 2% each while financials Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group were up 1.3% and 0.5% respectively.

Some realty players and retailers added to the gains as investors picked up defensive stocks. Sumitomo Realty & Development Co. gained 2.1% while retailer Fast Retailing bounced 7.4%. Drugmakers also notched up with mild gains -- Astellas Pharma climbed over 1% while Takeda Pharmaceuticals edged up 0.4%.

On the mainland, property stocks witnessed some buying interest. Gemdale Corp. gained 1.4% while Poly Real Estate Group climbed 0.7%. The broader-Shenzhen listed China Vanke gained 0.6%.

But Hong Kong-listed property developers were on the losers' side. Among financials, index heavyweight HSBC Holdings slipped 0.2% while Hang Seng Bank gave up 0.3%.

In Sydney, miners gained ground after a listless performance the previous day. Index leader BHP Billiton tacked on 1.3% while fellow miner Rio Tinto moved up 1.8%. Diversified iron-ore miner Fortescue Metals Group jumped over 3%.

But losses in the financials weighed. ANZ erased 0.3%, Westpac Banking lost 0.9% while NAB declined 1.2%.

In stock-specific movements, Seven West Media dropped 7.9% after U.S. private equity firm KKR said it was selling its remaining stake in the Australian media giant.

In Mumbai, stocks lost initial momentum, falling sharply in the final hours of trader after engineering and construction giant L&T posted dismal results. L&T plunged 5.6%.

Among other losers, Tata Power gave up 2.2%, Hero MotoCorp. lost 2%, Gail India dropped 1.3% and Sterlite Industries erased 1.3%.

Some defensive picks, however, helped curtail those losses. Drug-makers Sun Pharma and Dr. Reddys Lab added 2.9% and 1.8% respectively while telecom giant Bharti Airtel enhanced 2.3%.

IT firms were also on the buyers' list on the back of a softer rupee. TCS edged up 0.2% and Wipro gained 0.9% as the rupee hit a six-month low against the dollar.