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Asian equities reverse losses ahead of Fed minutes

Asian stocks were mostly higher late Wednesday, reversing from early losses and overlooking news of a widening trade deficit in Japan, as traders awaited the release of the U.S. Federal Reserve's meeting minutes later in the day.

Wall Street closed higher on Tuesday as economic reports offered a benign view on inflation and a better-than-anticipated picture of the housing market. The Commerce Department reported that beginning home construction rose 15.7 percent in July on-month, while starts for volatile multi-family homes jumped 33 percent.

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The Dow gained 0.5 percent, with Home Depot leading blue-chip gains. The S&P 500 rose 0.5 percent while the Nasdaq scaled 0.4 percent to hit another 14-year high.

Geopolitics were in focus as a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip collapsed on Tuesday, with Palestinian militants firing rockets into Israel, prompting Israeli airstrikes that health officials said killed a woman and a young girl.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko are expected to meet next week, top officials told reporters on Tuesday. This comes as relations between the countries are at rock bottom, with Ukrainian forces continuing to fight pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

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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Tokyo flat

Japan's benchmark Nikkei index closed modestly higher on Wednesday, extending gains to an eighth session, as a weak yen offset negative news of a widening trade deficit for July.

Data released early Wednesday showed Japan's exports rising 3.9 percent in July from the year ago period while imports fell an annual 2.3 percent. This widened the country's trade deficit to 964 billion yen for July; expectations were for a trade gap of 702.5 billion yen.

The currency, trading at a four-month high of 103 against the U.S. dollar, buoyed risk appetite in index heavyweights like Softbank and Sony which climbed over 1 percent each.

However losses in other exporter stocks capped gains; Nintendo and Panasonic fell 0.8 and 0.7 percent each.

Read MoreJapan's polarizing PM Abe learns the long game

Mainland shares mixed

China's Shanghai Composite Index closed down 0.2 percent on Wednesday.

Property plays put up a weak showing; Vanke plummeted 2 percent while Poly Real Estate and China Merchants Property dropped over 1 percent, respectively.

Hong Kong stocks extended gains to hover at a six-year high. Among gainers, Galaxy Entertainment continued its winning momentum from Tuesday to rise 0.5 percent following the reporting of a strong first-half net profit.

"On technical analysis, the Hang Seng Index is following an upward trend line," wrote IG's market strategist Ryan Huang in a note. "The market expectation of further stimulus measures from China has been feeding much of the optimism. Despite rather soft macro data from China earlier in the week, investors appear to remain bullish on stock valuations and a slew of positive corporate earnings."

Sydney adds 0.2%

Australia's key S&P ASX 200 index reversed losses to close at a three-week high on Wednesday amid a deluge of earnings releases.

A 33 percent increase in first half profit elevated shares of Woodside Petroleum by 0.8 percent. Retailer Wesfarmers climbed nearly 4 percent after its full-year net profit rose 19 percent on-year.

Miner Fortescue Metals shed 1.6 percent despite its fiscal year net profit attributable to members rose an annual 56 percent.

A steep 4 percent loss from BHP Billiton also weighed on the bourse. The mining giant had announced on Wednesday that it would spin off a roughly $14 billion company to shareholders.

Read MoreInvestors reject BHP deal, hunt for value elsewhere

Seoul flat

South Korea's key Kospi index recouped losses after midday to end Wednesday slightly higher.

Gains in blue-chip shares lifted the bourse; Posco jumped 2.4 percent while Samsung Electronics added 0.6 percent, on news that it is acquiring U.S. retailer Quietside in a bid to break into the U.S. home retailing space.

Hyundai Motor reversed losses to gain 0.7 percent despite news that its union workers may be going on strike along with staff of Kia Motors on Friday. Shares of the latter reversed losses to close up 0.5 percent.