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Japan leads Asia shares higher after China GDP beats estimates

Asian equity markets ended mostly higher on Wednesday as traders welcomed a better than expected growth report from the world's second biggest economy.

China's economy grew an annual 7.4 percent in the first quarter of this year, above analyst expectations for a 7.3 percent increase, but still slower than the 7.7 percent reading in the final quarter of 2013.

"Chinese growth remains on track to come in around 7.5 percent this year. This should be positive for the Chinese share market, which with a forward PE of 8.5 times is priced for a hard landing and a credit crisis," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital.

Read MoreChina GDP puts to rest worst fears over the economy

Other China data out on Wednesday showed March retail sales grew an annual 12.2 percent, a touch below estimates, while industrial output rose an annual 8.8 percent, below expectations for a 9 percent rise. Meanwhile, fixed asset investment for the first three months of the year rose 17.6 percent on year, missing estimates.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
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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 pops 3%

Japanese shares finished at their highest levels in over a week, extending gains into a second day, as traders cheered comments from Finance Minister Taro Aso.

"Comments from Japanese Finance minister Taro Aso could certainly be helping, when he spoke about the massive Government Pension Fund (GPIF) and the potential for portfolio rebalancing in June. This could invariably involve buying foreign assets [which could see potential yen weakness), while they could also increase its weighing on holding around domestic equities," said Chris Weston, market strategist at IG.

Read MoreWhy Japanese bonds look 'terrible': Kyle Bass

A slightly weaker currency also underpinned gains on the benchmark Nikkei as dollar- yen rose to 102.29, its highest level since April 8.

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Tech and internet shares led the gains with index heavyweight Softbank 8.5 percent higher after its Chinese e-commerce affiliate Alibaba saw net income double in the fourth-quarter.

The news also sparked a 8 percent rally in e-commerce retailer Rakuten and more than 4 percent gains for tech giant Panasonic.

Shanghai up 0.2%

Mainland shares stabilized in afternoon trade following a choppy morning session, rebounding from the previous day's 1.4 percent decline.

Brokerages rallied on lower money market rates; Founder Securities climbed 3 percent and Citic Securities rose 0.5 percent.

Real-estate developers rallied after data showed property investment in the January to March period jumped 16.8 percent on year. Vanke rose 1.4 percent while Gemdale rallied 3.3 percent.

ASX up 0.6%

Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 rose for a second straight session, but remained 1.5 percent below its six-year high of 5,503 hit earlier this month. Meanwhile, the Australian dollar hit a session high of $0.9379, bouncing off an earlier one-week low of $0.9329.

BHP Billiton, the world's biggest mining company, rose 0.4 percent after reporting a 1 percent rise in first-quarter iron ore output and lifting annual guidance to 217 million tons.

Fortescue Metals climbed over 1 percent after third-quarter iron ore output rose an annual 17 percent but on a quarterly basis, production fell 8 percent due to bad weather.

Yancoal declined nearly 8 percent after two of its employees died in a wall collapse at a mine in New South Wales.

Read MoreIs the emerging market rally a flash in the pan?

Kospi flat

South Korean shares ended the session absolutely flat as gains were capped by sharp declines in blue-chip stocks. Steelmaker Posco tumbled 3 percent while Kia Motors eased 0.8 percent.

Meanwhile, the won rose against the dollar to trade around 1,037, within sight of its six-year high of 1,030 hit earlier this month.

Read MoreRescue underway for distressed South Korean ferry

India falls 0.9%

Indian shares finished lower in a cautious day's trading while the rupee traded at 60.2 per dollar. On Tuesday, the benchmark index declined following a rise in March consumer inflation.

Ukraine crisis escalates

Tensions in Ukraine continued to weigh on risk sentiment. Ukrainian armed forces on Tuesday launched a "special operation" against pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country, retaking an airfield near Kramatorsk that had been seized by rebels.

Read MoreHere's what you need to know about Ukraine crisis

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the UN must condemn Kiev's use of force, but the White House defended Kiev's actions.

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