Asian stock markets struggle to match Wall Street gains

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HONG KONG – Asian stock markets were mostly lower Thursday, with Japan’s Nikkei leading the retreat as investors locked in profits after a strong rally.

Profit taking set in following a sharp rise in Tokyo the day before and as comments from the country’s central bank governor left investors unimpressed.

Other regional benchmarks were unable to find direction in spite of optimism in the U.S., where major benchmarks closed at least 1 per cent higher, and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the central bank would continue to provide stimulus for the job market.

Trading in some markets such as Hong Kong and Australia was subdued ahead of a long weekend.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index lost 0.4 per cent to 14,362.94 after rising 3 per cent on Wednesday.

Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda said in a speech that the bank would make adjustments as needed to its ultra-loose monetary policy, and he reiterated his confidence that the policy is having the desired effect of stimulating the economy, according to Kyodo news agency.

South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.2 per cent to 1,988.10. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged up 0.1 per cent to 22,724.84 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5 per cent to 5,448.80. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.3 per cent to 2,098.65.

On Wall Street, the Dow rose 1 per cent to 16,424.85 and the Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 1.1 per cent to 1,862.31. The Nasdaq composite rose 1.3 per cent to 4,086.22.

In energy trading, benchmark crude oil for May delivery was up 33 cents to $104.09. The contract rose 1 cent to settle at $103.76 on Wednesday.

In currencies, the dollar slipped to 101.93 yen from 102.22 in late trading Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.3840 from $1.3820.

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