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Asian stocks muted as Japan surge tempered

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ELAINE KURTENBACH | February 18, 2014 10:38 PM EST | AP

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TOKYO (AP) — Shares were lackluster in Asia on Wednesday as investors waited for major earnings reports and took stock of a torrid start to the year for markets.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo slipped 0.7 percent to 14,742.36 after big gains the previous day.

The Japanese benchmark surged 3.1 percent on Tuesday after the Bank of Japan topped up its already lavish monetary stimulus by doubling the size of funds to support bank lending and economic growth. The funds, which were due to expire shortly, were extended for another year after growth in 2013 fell below expectations.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged 0.1 percent lower to 22,555.46 as traders awaiting earnings reports from such heavyweights as insurer AIA and banking giant HSBC.

South Korea's Kospi fell 0.4 percent to 1,938.06. Shares in Taiwan, China and Malaysia fell while prices rose in Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia.

It was less an issue of anything spooking the market than of a regrouping, said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.

Stocks made impressive gains last year but sold off sharply in the opening weeks of 2014. Some of January's losses were since recouped.

"After the recent bull run there is some consolidation, but the market is still positive," Yip said.

On Tuesday, the Standard & Poor's 500 rose 2.13 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,840.76 and the Nasdaq composite rose 28.76 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,272.78.

European stocks were sluggish after a key measure of German investor confidence fell, with Germany's DAX flat at 9,659.78. France's CAC 40 fell 0.1 percent to 4,330.71 while Britain's FTSE 100 added 1 percent to 6,802.61.

Benchmark U.S. oil for March delivery was up 28 cents to $102.71 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $2.13 overnight to $102.43.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3762 from $1.3767 late Tuesday. The dollar inched down to 102.24 yen from 102.25 yen.