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Asian stocks rise on strong Chinese exports, Yellen reassurance

Asian stocks rose on Wednesday following better-than-expected Chinese trade data and as investors cheered Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's reassurance of supportive U.S. monetary policy.

Mainland exports grew an annual 10.6 percent in January, compared to expectations for a 2 percent gain, but many attributed the figures to distortions from the Lunar New Year holidays.

Yellen stressed continuity in monetary policy in her testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, which saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average post triple-digit gains.

News that U.S. lawmakers have agreed to raise the U.S. debt ceiling without any add-on provisions also boosted sentiment. That announcement came after the close on Wall Street.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Nikkei up 0.5%

Japan's benchmark Nikkei index resumed trade at a near two-week high after being shut on Tuesday for a public holiday. A weaker currency overshadowed disappointing economic data as the yen traded near a two-week low against the dollar, boosting exporters.

Among top gainers, Nissan Motor rose 2 percent after reporting its steepest quarterly profit gain in three years on Monday. Sony jumped 3.7 percent after the Nikkei reported it is in talks with Apple to double its supply of camera components for a new iPhone.

Meanwhile, December core machinery orders fell 15.7 percent from November, worse than the 4.1 percent expected fall.

After the market close, SoftBank reported that October-December net profit fell 13.4 percent.

(Read more: These are the headwinds that 'Abenomics' faces)

Shanghai up 0.3%

Mainland shares took a breather after closing at its highest levels in over a month on Tuesday. The benchmark Shanghai Composite hovered around 2,105 points in quiet trade as investors digested January's trade data.

Environmental stocks were in focus after the vice-environment minister said 32 projects were vetoed last year as the government cracks down on industrial pollution. Tianjin Capital Environment rallied over 5 percent while Beijing Capital rose nearly 1 percent.

"We're calling this year the 'Year of the Donkey.' We think China's growth will disappoint but we think old economy stocks will do better. There's a lot of blind buying of new economy stocks but all those sectors have high regulatory risks, whether its healthcare, media or the environment," said Ewin Sanft, head of China & HK equity research at Standard Chartered.

(Read more: Do China's banks face a new headwind?)

Sydney up 1%

Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 index rose for a fifth straight session, hitting a three-week high, while the Australian dollar traded at a one-month high above 90 U.S. cents as investors digested solid first-half earnings results.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia added 0.4 percent after cash profits rose 14 percent.

The nation's second-largest property group Stockland added 4.8 percent after net profit grew 5 percent, building materials maker Boral soared 9 percent after reporting a 73 percent profit increase and Oz Minerals surged over 12 percent on positive full-year results.

Amid losers, Goodman Fielder fell over 7 percent after recording a net loss while blood products maker CSL lost 3 percent despite a 3 percent profit rise.

(Watch: CSL: Seeing strong operational performance)

Kospi up 0.2%

South Korean shares rose to their highest levels since January 29, posting a sixth straight session of gains, despite January's unemployment rate rising for the second straight month.

A stronger won hurt sentiment as the currency rose 0.8 percent against the greenback to hit a near 1-month high; automakers Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors lost over 1 percent each.

By CNBC.com's Nyshka Chandran. Follow her on Twitter @NyshkaCNBC

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