Pro-Russian rebels paraded European monitors they are holding in
eastern Ukraine on Sunday, freeing one but saying they had no plans
to release another seven as the United States and Europe prepared
new sanctions against Moscow.
The leader of detained monitors said on Sunday that all in group
were in good health, but they were anxious to be allowed to go home
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
<.MIAPJ0000PUS> was down 0.1 percent in early trade.
Japan's Nikkei stock average <.N225> opened down 0.9 percent,
despite data released before the market opened showing retail sales
rose in March at their fastest pace in 17 years ahead of a sales tax
Caution ahead of central bank meetings this week, as well as key
U.S. jobs data on Friday, also kept investors wary.
Federal Reserve policymakers will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday and
are expected to unanimously decide to continue tapering the central
bank's massive bond-buying stimulus for now. Policymakers were
expected to hotly debate future actions, such as what economic
conditions would set the stage for a rate hike.
"With the steady improvement in U.S. labor data, there exists a very
small tail risk of a more hawkish lean," strategists at Citi wrote
in a note to clients.
The Bank of Japan will release new economic projections following
its meeting on Wednesday.
The BOJ will likely keep its inflation forecast for fiscal 2015
roughly unchanged from the current 1.9 percent, and is also set to
estimate fiscal 2016 inflation close to 2 percent, signaling that it
is optimistic of achieving sustained price rises over a longer time
frame, sources have told Reuters.
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Tokyo markets will be closed for a holiday on Tuesday.
On Wall Street on Friday, the three main U.S. stock indexes all fell
for both the session and the week, as disappointing earnings from
Amazon and Ford on Thursday and the rising Ukraine tensions sapped
Investors in Asia will also keep a close eye on China's yuan, after
it hit a 16-month low for the third straight day on Friday.
Major currency pairs remained locked in recent ranges, with the
heightened Ukraine crisis bolstering the safe-haven yen.
The dollar inched down 0.1 percent to 102.11 yen, while the euro was
slightly lower at bought 141.30 yen.
The dollar index <.DXY> was steady at 79.731, after edging down 0.1
percent last week. The euro was also treading water at $1.3839 after
it added 0.2 percent last week.
(Editing by Shri Navaratanam)
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