Asia mixed in choppy trade ahead of Bernanke testimony
Asian equity markets were mixed on Wednesday ahead of a widely-anticipated speech from the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Japan's Nikkei index reversed earlier losses to cross 14,600 points, South Korea's Kospi hit a one-month high, Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 was flat and the Shanghai Composite snapped a three-day winning streak.
(Read more: Will Bernanke taper talk rock the markets again?)
Investors are looking ahead to Fed Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's semi-annual testimony to Congress on Wednesday, from which they hope to garner further clues on the timing of when monetary stimulus is likely to be unwound.
"The market will also be very keen to hear if the chairman's views on the economy have changed, with many feeling the Fed's outlook is wildly optimistic, especially with the Q2 run rate around 0.8 percent, after a patch of softer data," wrote Chris Weston, market strategist at IG in a note.
Nikkei ends in the green
Tokyo equities reversed earlier losses in afternoon trade as dollar-yen crept closer to the 100-yen level. The Nikkei closed just 23 points shy of a new eight-week high.
Manufactures led the gains. Automaker Mitsubishi Motor jumped 11 percent and steel producer Kobe Steel jumped 4 percent. Shares of electronics firm NEC rose 5 percent after the Nikkei newspaper reported that the company would exit its loss-making smartphone business.
(Read more: Fate of yen hinges on Japan's weekend elections)
Investors hoping to see hints of of future stimulus in minutes of the Bank of Japan's (BOJ) latest policy meeting were disappointed. The minutes revealed that members discussed steps to calm recent turbulence in the bond market but decided against them, stating that the BOJ's current operations would be enough to stabilize rates.
Shanghai down 1%
China's benchmark stock index fell in volatile trade for the first time in three days despite upbeat economic data. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in June surged over 20 percent from a year ago, a huge step up from May's 0.3 percent annual gain.
Property developers declined ahead of Thursday's release of home price data. Gemdale fell 1.5 percent while Vanke slipped 0.6 percent.
A rally in resource stocks limited losses on Australia's benchmark index. Shares of the world's top miner and index heavyweight BHP Billiton jumped over 2 percent after reporting a 7 percent increase in copper production and a 17 percent rise in iron ore production year-on-year for the June quarter.
The solid results sparked a rally across the resource space. Fortescue Metals rose 6 percent and Atlas Iron increased 8 percent.
Meanwhile, debt strapped retailer Billabong surged 34 percent after agreeing to a rescue package from a consortium led by private-equity group, Altamont Capital Partners. In exchange for a $300 million bridging-loan facility, Billabong will issue share-options for 15 percent of the surf wear retailer.
South Korea's benchmark index crossed the 1,880 mark, hitting its highest levels since June 19 thanks to a rally in large-cap shares.
Automakers like Hyundai Motors added 2.8 percent, Kia Motors rose 1.4 percent and tech giant Samsung Electronics jumped 1.7 percent.
Firm economic data on Wednesday also supported the index . Producer prices fell in June but at its slowest pace since December, suggesting that Asia's fourth-largest economy may be picking up.
— By CNBC.com's Nyshka Chandran. Follow her on Twitter @NyshkaCNBC