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Asia markets fall as central banks meeting eyed

US Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan and Reserve Bank of New Zealand are all set to meet this week

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Apr 26 2016 2:17PM | Updated Date: Apr 26 2016 5:33PM

Asia markets fall as central banks meeting eyed
Asia markets lost ground on Monday across the board, with many traders likely taking to the sidelines ahead of several central bank decisions this week. 
The Japanese benchmark Nikkei 225 was down 0.70 percent after flirting with positive territory briefly. Last week, the index added 4.3 percent. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi was down 0.12 percent. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was off 0.57 percent. 
Chinese mainland markets were lower, with the Shanghai composite shedding 0.82 percent and the Shenzhen composite off by 0.91 percent. 
The US Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) are all set to meet this week. Stephen Innes, a senior trader at OANDA Asia Pacific said, "while most of the focus will center on possible policy action from the BOJ, traders will be looking for forward guidance both from the Fed and RBNZ." 
Innes predicts a "very bumpy ride" ahead this week. 
Markets in Australia and New Zealand are closed for ANZAC day public holiday on Monday. 
Despite shares' turn lower on Monday, most major markets have recovered from the steep sell-off seen in January. Most indexes across Asia have gained over the past three months, although many are still down for the year-to-date. 
Richard Titherington from JPMorgan Asset Management told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday that people are a lot less pessimistic about emerging markets today than they were at the end of January, contributing to the rally. 
"We have seen a nice rally," he said. "Where we go from here is really decided by two things: where you see the dollar and where do you see the outlook for the Chinese economy." 
In recent months, the dollar index, which measures the dollar against a basket of currencies, eased from as high as 99.829 to lows of 93.627 as the Fed stayed pat on interest rates since its last hike in December. On the other hand, recent data coming out of Beijing have indicated a slight uptick in China as it undergoes a re-balancing from a manufacturing-intensive to service-oriented economy. 
"If you think the dollar is going to continue to weaken, that's very positive for emerging markets," according to Titherington. "If you think China is stabilizing, that supports the story. If, on the other hand, you are pessimistic about China and you are a dollar bull, then it's probably time to be more cautious about emerging markets." 
In the currency market, the yen weakened sharply against the dollar, trading at the 111 handle, compared with the 107 handle briefly touched early last week. In the previous session, the yen finished at 111.78 to the dollar and on Monday, as of 12:34 p.m. HK/SIN, the pair traded down 0.47 percent at 111.25. 
Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, said the weakness in the yen was driven by expectations for the BOJ meeting later this week. 
"There are now reports that the BOJ could introduce negative lending rates to complement negative deposit rates," Lien said in a note Friday. "With the Japanese economy struggling under the weight of a strong yen and slower global growth and speculators holding a record amount of long yen positions, the chance of easing by the BOJ is high." 
The Japanese central bank is set to meet and announce its monetary policy decision this week, with half the analysts polled by Reuters expecting further easing.