Asian Markets
An investor drinks water as he looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Haikou, Hainan province. Asia-Pacific markets are expected to perform better this week REUTERS

Asian stock markets mostly advanced Wednesday on hopes that major central banks around the world would act to tackle the deteriorating global economic conditions.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei gained 0.41 percent or 37.58 points to 9,104.17 and South Korean KOSPI gained 0.35 percent or 6.63 points to 1,874.45 while Chinese Shanghai ended flat.

The recent batch of disappointing economic readings from the U.S., China and Europe has raised fears that the global economic recovery is losing steam. Investors are optimistic that the weak data will force policy makers to announce further monetary actions to support the recovery.

The market seems to be riding high on a wave of central bank easing expectations, with traders now largely expecting action from the Chinese, ECB and the Bank of England, Chris Weston, a dealer at IG Markets, told Reuters.

Market participants are hoping that the European Central Bank would cut its main refinancing rate to below 1 percent when its governing council meets Thursday as recent economic reports, including rise in unemployment and weak manufacturing activities, heightened fears that the region's economic problems are worsening.

Analysts at Credit Agricole expect a 25bp cut in the ECB's main refinancing rate at its regular policy meeting on July 5, saying that the justification for a rate cut looks even stronger today, on a fundamental ground, compared to one or two months ago. They also pointed out that the ECB's decision to leave its benchmark interest rate steady for the sixth consecutive month in June was mostly a tactical move aimed at maintaining the pressure on political leaders.

Energy companies' shares rallied across the region as oil futures rallied Tuesday on news that Tehran is considering a bill to block the Strait of Hormuz to oil tankers linked to countries that support sanctions against it. Light sweet crude for August delivery surged 4.7 percent Tuesday and settled at $87.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest closing level since May 30.

In Japan, Japan Petroleum Exploration gained 2.95 percent and Inpex Corp rose 2.90 percent while Sumco Corp surged 4.17 percent.

Hong Kong shares pared earlier gains and ended lower as declines from banking and commodity companies offset gains in resource-related stocks. Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.13 percent or 25.78 points to 19,709.75.

Among the stocks, HSBC Holdings Plc. fell 1.29 percent and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. declined 0.93 percent while Zijin Mining Group gained 2.28 percent and Jiangxi Copper advanced 1.58 percent.