U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that time was
running out for Moscow to change its course in Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Russia separatists on
Thursday and Russia conducted army drills near the border, raising
fears its troops would invade.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was a few
ticks higher in early trade, while Japan's Nikkei stock average
skidded 0.5 percent as disappointment over a failed attempt to reach
a U.S.-Japan trade pact weighed on sentiment.
The two countries made progress in trade talks at a bilateral summit
in Tokyo but did not reach the trade deal that they were hoping to
seal, Economy Minister Akira Amari said on Friday.
Core consumer prices in Tokyo, a leading indicator of nationwide
inflation, rose 2.7 percent in April from a year earlier, a hair shy
of forecasts. But it was still the fastest gain since 1992 as a
national sales tax hike drove up prices.
"With share prices falling, political stress is on the rise. If
additional easing measures are not introduced in May, the BOJ's
monetary policy may become a political issue," analysts at Citi said
in a note to clients.
On Wall Street overnight, stocks managed to shrug off the rising
Ukraine tensions after tech bellwethers Facebook and Apple posted
upbeat results on Wednesday and U.S. economic data suggested that
growth picked up pace in the second quarter.
Durable goods orders rose more than expected in March and a measure
of business capital spending plans surged.
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The dollar last bought 102.27 yen, down about 0.1 percent, while the
euro also inched lower against its Japanese counterpart to 141.43
The U.S. unit also edged lower against a basket of major currencies,
with the dollar index edging down to 79.760.
Against the dollar, the euro was steady on the day at $1.3830,
despite comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi
repeating recent concerns about euro strength and the ECB's
willingness to launch a "broad-based asset purchase program" if low
inflation become entrenched.
The European unit was supported by an improvement in a German
business sentiment index, which indicated that Europe's largest
economy managed to overcome the rising Ukraine tensions.
In the commodities front, spot gold XAU= was slightly lower at
$1,293.09 an ounce after earlier touching its lowest levels since
February, though fears about the Ukraine crisis limited losses.
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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