Asian stock markets displayed little momentum on Tuesday in the absence of cues from Wall Street following a holiday in the U.S.

In Japan, investors went for profits following Monday’s strong rally. The Nikkei 225 index fell 0.1 per cent to 11,395.16. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was down 0.1 per cent to 23,352.91. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.3 per cent to 1,987.53. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 per cent to 5,071.60.

Some investors remained on the sidelines, waiting for Japan to announce the next head of its central bank to replace Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirikawa, who will leave the post in April. Analysts at DBS Bank in Singapore said they expect an announcement before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets President Barack Obama on February 22 in Washington.

Mr. Abe, elected on promises of bold action to ignite the moribund Japanese economy, is likely to appoint someone with views in line with the programme he is championing. One element of the programme includes a target of 2 per cent inflation to reverse two decades of falling prices, which hurts growth. He also favours a weaker yen.

Japanese stocks have soared in recent weeks as the yen has fallen in anticipation of steps that would push the currency lower.

In China, meanwhile, retail sales during the Lunar Year Holiday last week grew by 14.7 per cent, a slowdown from 16.2 per cent growth in the same period last year. The Chinese government also said food and beverage sales grew moderately.

“The moderate growth likely reflects the government’s drive to reduce lavish government receptions and banquets, as high-end food and liquor registered sales decline,” said analysts at Citi Research in Hong Kong.

Jewellery sales rose sharply because Valentine’s Day fell during the Chinese New Year, analysts said. Hong Kong-listed Chow Tai Fook Jewellry Group rose 1.2 per cent. Emperor Watch & Jewellery added 1.1 per cent.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was down 19 cents to $95.67 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 17 cents to $95.69 on the Nymex on Monday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3345 from $1.3358 late Monday in Asia. The dollar fell to 93.79 yen from 94.05 yen.

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