By Dow Jones Business News, March 06, 2013, 09:05:00 PM EDT
--Asian markets cautious ahead of data
--Nikkei climbs above 12,000 points
--Olympus jumps on debt slash report
Japanese stocks touched a fresh 2013 high on Thursday, while other Asian markets were cautious ahead of economic data
from China and the U.S.
In most markets in Asia, trading was cautious ahead of important data releases from the world's two largest economies.
On Friday, the U.S. will announce nonfarm payrolls employment figures. On the same day, China will announce its trade
data for February, which will be followed by inflation and industrial numbers over the weekend.
Chinese shares were mixed before the data, with the Shanghai Composite Index flat in mainland China while Hong Kong's
Hang Seng Index was up 0.1%.
Positive economic data, released on Wednesday in the U.S., helped push the dollar higher against the yen. Private
businesses added more jobs than expected in February, while a fall in factory orders was smaller than forecast.
"The data out of the U.S. has been unambiguously positive. In Asia the data has been supportive but that has to be
offset against the property tightening in China. Asian markets have been a bit more mixed," said Shane Oliver, head of
investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital in Sydney.
The dollar gained 0.8% against the yen overnight Wednesday, but weakened as the Thursday session progressed -- the
dollar was last at Y93.79, compared to Y94.07 late Wednesday in New York.
The yen firmed up after the Bank of Japan decided to keep monetary policy on hold, at the end of the final policy
meeting for Governor Masaaki Shirakawa. The central bank's decision was in line with expectations, and the focus
remained on its next meeting, which will take place after Haruhiko Kuroda has taken control of the bank.
The end of the Bank of Japan's latest meeting marked the start of a busy day for central banks, with the European
Central Bank and the Bank of England both scheduled to announce their policy decisions later Thursday.
The euro rose in early Asian trading to $1.2989 compared with $1.2967 late Wednesday in New York, recovering slightly
from its 0.7% overnight decline.
Japanese stocks started the day with a boost, with the Nikkei touching a fresh 2013 high in early trading. The market
pared its gains as the yen firmed up, and was last up 0.4%.
Big moves in Tokyo included Olympus Corp., which jumped 5.3% after a Nikkei report said that the company aims to cut
interest-bearing debt by Y100 billion by March next year.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.2% after rising modestly to a fresh four-and-a-half-year high in early trading. Some
large mining stocks resisted the downward momentum, stabilizing after several sessions of successive declines. BHP
Billiton added 0.1% and Rio Tinto gained 0.8%.
South Korea's Kospi Composite slipped 0.8%, weighed down by its single largest constituent Samsung Electronics, which
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