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Asia: Markets move cautiously ahead of bank meetings

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[HONG KONG] Tokyo stocks sank on a strong yen as traders await central bank meetings in Japan and the United States this week, while other Asian markets fluctuated following a negative lead from Wall Street.

Promises of monetary easing after last month's shock British EU exit vote led a surge in shares - and record highs on Wall Street - but a degree of nervousness has set in as two of the biggest central banks prepare to meet.

The Federal Reserve concludes its gathering Wednesday and although it is not expected to make any big announcement, its statement will be pored over for clues about policy following a run of strong data that have fanned talk of an interest rate rise.

The Bank of Japan, which closes its meeting Friday, is widely considered to be lining up a huge addition to its already vast bond-buying scheme, sending the yen tumbling and the Nikkei index soaring this month.

However, the two reversed course Tuesday with a drop in oil prices also hitting confidence.

"A stronger yen and cheaper oil prices are likely to damp investor sentiment," Toshihiko Matsuno, a senior strategist with SMBC Friend Securities, told Bloomberg News.

By the break, Japanese stocks were down 1.6 per cent with exporters hurt as the dollar fell to 104.72 yen from 105.82 yen.

Among other markets Hong Kong was 0.3 per cent higher, Sydney shed 0.4 per cent and Singapore was off 0.7 per cent, while Shanghai added 0.6 per cent and Seoul put on 0.2 per cent.

US traders provided a negative lead as they also took their cash off the table after pushing multiple records on the Dow and S&P 500 over the previous two weeks.

Wall Street's main indexes were dampened by another drop in oil prices that has been fuelled by fresh worries about a global supply glut, with the US holiday driving season coming to a close and stockpiles still high.

Both main contracts fell more than two per cent on Monday, although there was a minor uptick on Tuesday.

The soft oil prices filtered through to energy firms. Australia's Woodside Petroleum lost 1.4 per cent, CNOOC sank two per cent in Hong Kong and Tokyo-listed Inpex dived 3.3 per cent.