Asia stocks fall before BOJ meeting ends

(AP) Asia stocks fall before BOJ meeting ends
By PAMELA SAMPSON
AP Business Writer
BANGKOK
Asian stock markets fell Tuesday as traders waited for Japan's central bank to announce stimulus measures after wrapping up a two-day policy meeting.

The Bank of Japan has been under pressure from a new government to take more aggressive steps to fight the long deflationary slump in the world's third-largest economy. Some analysts expect the bank to expand its asset-purchasing program and set a new inflation target.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.7 percent to 10,673.24 as the yen reversed some of its sharp drop against the greenback. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index slipped 0.1 percent to 23,564.23. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.2 percent to 4,769.20.

South Korea's Kospi bucked the trend, rising 0.1 percent to 1,988.23.

U.S. stock and bond markets were closed Monday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which coincided with the inauguration ceremonies that launched President Barack Obama's second term in office.

Concerns linger about the U.S. economy, with lawmakers wrangling over spending cuts and the nation's debt ceiling, which limits the amount of debt that U.S. government can take on. The government has hit its $16.4 trillion debt limit and is expected to run out of ways to meet all of its obligations around March 1, perhaps earlier.

Although Republican lawmakers were expected to accept a temporary increase, a final deal is still not in sight.

Gary Yau of Credit Agricole CIB said that "any further news on the US debt ceiling after Obama's inauguration will again be closely scrutinized."

Benchmark oil for February delivery was down 14 cents to $95.90 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 9 cents to settle at $95.47 a barrel on the Nymex on Monday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3310 from $1.3320 late Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 89.43 yen from 90.03 yen.

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Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson

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