By Daniel Inman
HONG KONG--Japanese stocks ended the day slightly higher in a choppy session on Wednesday after the Bank of Japan stood pat on policy, while Hong Kong stocks saw a sharp loss.
The Nikkei , which reopened after Tuesday's public holiday, flipped between positive and negative territory to end up 0.1% at 14304.11. The benchmark recovered slightly from Monday, when it fell 1% after disappointing earnings from Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and in light of a stronger yen.
Shares in Tokyo lost much of their gains as the yen strengthened before the Bank of Japan finished its policy meeting. The central bank kept its policy steady, as expected. Focus now shifts to the bank's semiannual forecast on growth and prices to be released later in the day. The U.S. Federal Reserve also will release its policy statement later Wednesday.
The dollar (USDJPY) was last at Yen102.47, down from Yen102.64 late Tuesday in New York.
Improved corporate earnings led to a positive overnight session on Wall Street, which helped a number of markets. The Philippines's PSE added 1.1% to 6707.91 and Singapore's Straits Times Index was up 0.8% late in Asia, while South Korea's Kospi lost 0.2% to 1961.79.
Australia's S&P ASX 200 edged up less than 0.1% to 5489.10, as the market failed to recover from a sharp fall on Tuesday after hitting a multiyear high. A series of bank downgrades triggered steep falls that continued into Wednesday, with National Australia Bank Ltd. (NAUBF) down 0.6% and Bank of Queensland down 1.1%.
Australian retailers fell after Wesfarmers Ltd. (WFAFY) on Tuesday said its sales growth slowed. The company dropped another 0.7% Wednesday, while Woolworths Ltd. (WOLWF) lost 1.9% despite reporting solid third quarter sales growth of 5.3% from a year earlier.
Sentiment in Hong Kong cooled on news that WH Group scrapped its initial public offering because of weak demand. The Chinese pork producer's IPO could have raised as much as $1.9 billion. The company cited deteriorating market conditions and volatility for its decision.
Hong Kong remained bumpy on Wednesday, with the Hang Seng Index falling 1.4% after a sharp 1.5% jump in the previous session. Investors fled growth stocks, with Tencent Holdings Ltd. (0700.HK) falling 5.2% to the lowest close this year of 483.20 Hong Kong dollars, in favor of defensive sectors such as telecoms. The shift comes before the Fed meeting and the release of Chinese purchasers manufacturing index data due tomorrow. The Shanghai Composite was flat.
Other must-read MarketWatch stories include:
Asia Stocks blog: Bank of Japan waits, for now
Star economists debate global economy at Milken forum
Donald Sterling and 8 other lifetime bans
-Daniel Inman; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
04-30-14 0651ETCopyright (c) 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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