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Asian Markets Close Mostly Higher on Fed-Minutes Rally

Asian markets closed broadly higher Wednesday, having been cheered by a rally on Wall Street the previous day after the Federal Open Market Committee's meeting minutes revealed a unanimous decision to cut US interest rates.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average ended almost flat after erasing earlier gains as investors sold Toyota Motor and Olympus, offsetting a rise in retail shares. Olympus lost 2.8%, becoming one of the biggest drags on the market, after JP Morgan cut its rating on the maker of digital cameras and medical equipment to "neutral" from "overweight."

South Korea's KOSPI climbed 1.3% to close at its third consecutive record led by exporters such as Hyundai Motor after Federal Reserve minutes eased inflation concerns in South Korea's second-biggest overseas market. Samsung SDI surged 14% -- its biggest daily gain since March 15, 2002 -- after it announced it would double monthly production capacity of a next-generation display that investors hope will become a new earnings driver.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.9% to set a second straight record closing high, with resource firms such as BHP Billiton leading the way up on stronger base metals and oil prices. The index also hit a lifetime high during the session, the latest in a string of record peaks over the past two weeks.

Singapore's Straits Times Index closed lower by 1.3%, having suffered a late-session selloff. Financial stocks such as Singapore Exchange and DBS Group were among the best performers.

Hong Kong stocks jumped as minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's last meeting suggested further rate cuts were possible, sending shares rallying across the board and boosting the debut of China Dongxiang. The Hang Seng ended 1.2% higher.

Soaring bank shares pushed China's Shanghai Composite Index to close 1% higher, though most stocks fell and overall market turnover remained moderate. The A shares of Bank of Communications surged in massive trade volume as mutual funds piled into the banking sector on the view it had become undervalued, fund managers and traders said.