TOKYO: Asian stocks were lackluster Friday as investors’ monitored violence in the Middle East but Japan’s market rose after weak economic data boosted hopes for more central bank stimulus.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.5 percent to 19,564.67 after slipping in and out of negative territory early in the session. South Korea’s Kospi was down 0.1 percent at 2,022.56 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent to 24,446.75. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.6 percent to 5,917.30. Taiwan’s benchmark fell and markets in Southeast Asia were flat.
Lackluster inflation, wages and household spending data for February are adding to expectations that the central bank may resort to further monetary stimulus to spur growth. Core inflation excluding volatile food prices was 2.0 percent in February, down from 2.2 percent in January. Excluding the impact of an April 2014 sales tax hike, inflation was flat, suggesting the world’s No. 3 economy remains in the doldrums.