Asian stock markets were mostly lower Thursday as market participants remained cautious ahead of the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of England's (BOE) policy decision meetings later in the day.
Market participants are awaiting the ECB's policy decision meeting later Thursday to see whether the bank would announce easing measures to calm market jitters over the current euro zone crisis.
The ECB is expected to cut its main refinancing rate to below 1 percent as recent economic reports, including rise in unemployment and weak manufacturing activities, heightened fears that the region's economic problems are worsening. The BOE's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is expected to leave its key policy rate unchanged at 0.50 percent and will announce an extension of its Quantitative Easing (QE) program by another GBP50bn to GBP375bn.
Investors are setting themselves up in anticipation of policy loosening, not just in Europe and the U.K., but also in the U.S. and elsewhere as recent data indicates growth is still slowing. We don't think the world's going to collapse but investors are in a wait-and-see mode as to how much central bank actions are going to help, Alexandra Knight, an economist at National Australia Bank Ltd, told Bloomberg.
Japanese shares ended lower as weakness in financial and energy related companies shares weighed. Benchmark Nikkei declined 0.27 percent or 24.37 points to 9,079.80.
Financials declined ahead of ECB and BOE's policy meeting and energy shares fell across the region after surging in the previous session. Nomura Holdings fell 1.02 percent and Inpex Corp declined 1.19 percent while JX Holdings slipped 1.72 percent.
Among the exporters, Nikon Corp. gained 1.40 percent and Pioneer Corp advanced 2.21 percent while Sony Corp. rose 1.76 percent.
Chinese Shanghai Composite slipped 1.17 percent or 25.96 to 2201.35 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.50 percent or 99.38 points to 19,809. HSBC Hong Kong Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) showed that that manufacturing activity continued to shrink for the second month in a row amid a sharp decline in new business from mainland China. PMI rose to 49.8 in June from 49.4 in May, but the reading of less than 50 indicates contraction.
Among the stocks, Bank of China Ltd. declined 1.02 percent and Agricultural Bank of China Ltd fell 0.31 percent in Hong Kong while Haitong Securities Co plunged 4.2 percent in Shanghai.
South Koreas KOSPI Composite ended flat and Indian benchmark BSE Sensex gained 0.40 percent. LG Chemical Ltd. surged 3.64 percent and Hall Climate Control Corp climbed 11.62 percent in Seoul. Pantaloon retail and Apollo Tyres surged more than 4 percent in India.