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Asian stocks mixed ahead of RBA decision

Asian stocks turned mixed early Tuesday, as cautious sentiment prevailed ahead of a keenly-anticipated policy decision by Australia’s central bank.

Overnight, US stocks finished higher, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq above the psychologically key level of 5,000 for the first time since March 2000 and the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 at records as investors cheered US economic data and an interest rate cut in China.

Nikkei slips 0.4 percent

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index reversed gains to drift further away from Monday’s 15-year high as the dollar-yen retreated back into the 119 territory.

Embattled electronics firm Sharp is in focus following news that it plans to seek aid from lenders and reorganize its domestic operations. Shares of the Osaka-based Japanese firm plunged 7 percent, outpacing other electronic firms, such as Panasonic and Sony, which made losses of more than 1 percent each.

Steep losses in index heavyweights like Softbank and Fast Retailing, down 1.6 and 1.4 percent each, also weighed on the bourse

Shanghai Comp falls 1.2 percent

Chinese shares plunged in early trade as the country’s top political advisory body – the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) – convenes today in Beijing, just ahead of the country’s annual National People’s Congress on Thursday.

Among top losers, China State Construction slumped 2.5 percent while Poly Real Estate tanked 3.6 percent.

ASX flat

Australia’s S&P ASX 200 index pared gains, retreating from fresh 7-year highs attained earlier in the session, as traders await the Reserve Bank of Australia’s policy decision at 1130 SIN/HK, where the central bank is widely expected to announce its second consecutive interest rate cut. Meanwhile, the Australian dollar hovered near a one-week low of USD 0.7764 to the dollar,

The banking sector led advances; Westpac rallied 1.4 percent, while the National Australia Bank, Australia & New Zealand Banking and Commonwealth Bank of Australia advanced between 0.2 to 0.7 percent each.

However, a tumble in oil prices overnight weighed on some oil and gas producers, with Woodside Petroleum and Santos down 0.9 and 1.5 percent, respectively.

On the domestic data front, Australia’s government spending for consumption rose 0.3 percent in the final quarter of 2014 to an inflation-adjusted AUSD70.3 billion, according to data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics released early Tuesday. Building approvals in January, meanwhile, rose 7.9 percent.

Kospi gains 0.1 percent

South Korea’s Kospi index held at a new five-month high, supported by gains among automakers and Samsung’s affiliates.

Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors advanced over 3 percent each, while Samsung Heavy Industries surged 1 percent following news that it won an USD 618.9 million order to build four TEU-class container ships from Mitsui OSK Lines.

Meanwhile, global mobile messenger provider Viber said Monday it will appeal a South Korean court ruling that may ban its local operation, signaling a protracted battle with South Korea’s top mobile carrier, SK Telecom. Shares of the latter traded flat.

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