Asia shares muted on watch for central bank moves

A women looks at an electronic stock indicator of a securities firm in the rain in Tokyo, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Asian stock markets were muted Wednesday as investors watched for cues from central banks in Japan and elsewhere. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

TOKYO (AP) — Shares were muted Wednesday as investors watched for cues from central banks in Japan and elsewhere. Thailand's market stabilized a day after the country's military declared martial law in an effort to calm political tensions.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index slipped 0.2 percent to 14,042.17 after the central bank wrapped up its two-day meeting with a decision to keep its ultra-loose monetary policy unchanged.

Investors were holding back from major moves ahead of the release later Wednesday of minutes from recent policy meetings by the U.S. Federal Reserve and Bank of England. But figures showing Japan's trade deficit narrowed in April helped push the Japanese yen higher.

South Korea's Kospi fell 0.2 percent to 2,008.33 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.1 percent to 22,867.91 after yo-yoing throughout the day.

A recovery in the Chinese currency-denominated "A-shares" market in Shanghai was driving a rebound, said Jackson Wong, vice president of Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong.

The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.7 percent to 2,022.20.

"That brought up the whole technology sector and changed some sentiment to positive," Wong said. "Whenever A-shares rebound a lot of people think the central government might roll out policies to help the markets, even though it's almost always speculation."

Jitters over Thailand's political crisis appeared to subside a day after the military declared martial law in what it called an attempt to stabilize the country's precarious political situation. The SET index in Bangkok added 0.5 percent to 1,401.49.

Elsewhere in Asia, shares fell in Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, New Zealand and Taiwan, but edged higher in Australia.

Benchmark crude for July delivery was up 56 cents to $102.89 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 22 cents to $102.33 on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3715 from $1.3701 late Tuesday. The dollar fell to 100.95 yen from 101.26 yen.