asian markets

Most Asian stocks traded lower in the morning, but Japanese benchmark Nikkei index broke the 12000 mark for the first time in over four years, as the yen continued to extend its weak run against the dollar.

The Nikkei was up 0.60 percent or 72.10 points to 12004.4. South Korea's KOSPI was down 0.78 percent or 15.76 points to 2004.9. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.36 percent or 18.40 points to 5098.4.

China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.55 percent or 12.84 points to 2334.3. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.05 percent or 11.46 points to 22789.3.

US stocks had ended mostly higher earlier, with the Dow Industrials extending its record gains after better-than-expected private sector payrolls data. The US factory orders, which fell slightly less than expected in January also helped sentiments.

Japanese markets continued to remain upbeat, as traders speculated on the government's moves to boost the country's struggling economy. The yen, which has fallen to record levels against the dollar since November, continued to provide the much-needed push to export stocks. The greenback traded at about 94 yen during the day.

Bank of Japan, at its monetary meet has left its rates and asset purchase plans unchanged, in line with market expectations ahead of the leadership change this month. Analysts are more optimistic on a looser monetary stand after the government's candidate for the BoJ governor post Haruhiko Kuroda takes office.

Monetary decisions are expected from the European Central Bank and Bank of England as well. Investors are optimistic that the central banks' heads will retain or look to soften policies to help the struggling economies.

"Eurozone GDP shrank 0.6% in Q4 2012 compared to the 0.1% in Q3 which has raised concern the region is slipping back into another deep recession," said Jason Hughes, head of premium client management at IG Markets in Singapore.

"This could see another round of interest rate cuts, which has put pressure on the euro".

The single currency had slipped 0.5 percent overnight as pressure mounted on ECB to ease its policy and the dollar strengthened on the upbeat economic data.

Major Movers

Exporters led the pack in Tokyo. Olympus Corp was up 5.16 percent while tyre-maker Bridgestone Corp added 3.88 percent. Mazda Motor Corp gained 3.57 percent.

GS Yuasa, the battery maker for Boeing's Dreamliner aircrafts, gained 8.23 percent following reports that US regulators could approve a plan to allow test flights of the grounded carrier.

Property stocks traded higher in Hong Kong. Hang Lung Properties was up 2.78 percent while Wharf Holdings added 2.61 percent. Swire Pacific added 2.40 percent.

Exporters slipped in South Korea, contrasting their Japanese counterparts. Automobile major Kia was down 1.11 percent while rival Hyundai traded 0.92 percent lower. Electronics major Samsung was down 2.5 percent.