Asian stocks ended mixed Wednesday, with Tokyo down 1 percent but Shanghai posting strong gains, after Wall Street finished mixed in choppy trading.
Investors are awaiting a speech from European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet later in the day, ahead of an ECB meeting on Thursday, for clues on whether it will announce fresh steps to ease strains from the euro zone's debt crisis.
Japan's stocks fell 1 percent, moving toward a six-month low. A stronger yen weighed on exporters and investor confidence that Europe can tackle its debt woes weakened further after Fitch Ratings said the UK faced a "formidable" fiscal challenge.
Honda Motor, which has just settled one strike in China, dropped as a different strike at a supplier there moved into its third day, prompting the carmaker to suspend production
at two local car plants. Its shares finished down 3.2 percent at 2,610 yen.
The benchmark Nikkei average closed 1.04 percent lower at 9,439.13 on Wednesday. The broader Topix shed 0.93 percent to 850.37.
Japanese stocks were sold widely as the yen strengthened broadly this session, with blue-chip stocks leading the slide. Canon declined 2.5 percent to 3,595 yen and Sony Corp slipped 2.0 percent to 2,555 yen.
But shares of companies seen as resilient in economic downturns gained. Telecoms firm KDDI rose 1.5 percent, Osaka Gas also chalked up 1.5 percent and Japan Tobacco ended up 1.8 percent at 289,300 yen.
Industrial robot maker Fanuc finished flat at 9,560 yen after the Nikkei business daily reported the company plans to boost its output of industrial robots by nearly 70 percent to a record 2,500 units a month by autumn.
Seoul Eases 0.2%
Seoul shares gave up earlier gains to close 0.3 percent lower as continued worries over
the European debt crisis prompted foreign selling, which sent big tech names sharply lower.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) finished down 0.26 percent at 1,647.22 points.
Technology issues declined, with LG Display down 2.38 percent on concern about its second-quarter results.
LG Electronics, the world's No.3 handset maker, shed 2.4 percent and Hynix Semiconductor declined 4.5 percent.
Nuclear power-related issues outperformed amid expectations of orders from Turkey. According to local media reports, Turkish President Abdullah Gul is scheduled to visit South Korea in mid-June.
Korea Power Engineering Co (KOPEC) jumped as much as 9.94 percent and Korea Electric Power Corp rose 1.19 percent.
Auto issues declined after recent gains, with Kia Motors down 2.3 percent and Hyundai Motor off 1.8 percent.
Australia Ends Flat
Australian stocks managed to claw back to positive ground on Wednesday after a volatile session as investors remaind jittery about mining tax and Europe's debt crisis.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 ended 0.1 percent higher, at 4,385.3 points.
The index gained 1.3 percent on Tuesday, outperforming other Asian bourses after global miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton flagged hefty iron ore price rises.
Miners were generally weaker with Rio Tinto down 0.5 percent to A$66.38 and BHP up 0.2 percent at A$37.12.
Australian Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said on Wednesday discussions between the government and the industry over the proposed "super profits" tax were progressing constructively.
Financial stocks were also generally weaker, with top lender National Australia Bank the only one of the four major stocks to gain, rising 0.2 percent to A$24.16. Macquarie Group lost 1.3 percent.
New Zealand resins manufacturer Nuplex gained 3.9 percent to NZ$2.88 after saying it remained on track for a record result driven by stronger demand and a recovery in margins.
Shanghai, HK Rise
Shares in Hong Kong erased earlier losses to gain as much as 1.3 percent in afternoon trade, following a Reuters report quoting sources that China's export data for May surged, ahead of the data's official release.
Chinese exports in May grew about 50 percent from a year earlier according to the sources, who cited a senior government official speaking at an internal investor conference on Wednesday.
The benchmark Hang Seng Index rose, jumping nearly 300 points after opening at 19,506.30.
China's key stock index, the Shanghai Composite, jumped 2.8 percent in its biggest one-day gain in more than two weeks after news of stronger-than-expected export growth in May eased fears that Europe's debt crisis may hit the country's economic growth.
Taiex At 10-Month Low
Taiwan stocks finished near a 10-month low amid lingering economic fears but Hon Hai gained ground after saying it would seek higher prices from clients to help offset wage hikes at China plant that has been hit by a spate of suicides.
Hon Hai Industry ended up 1.8 percent, recovering from a 10 percent tumble in the past two days. Its Foxconn unit, which makes Apple's iPhones, said it hoped to reach a consensus with customers this month.
The main TAIEX share index lost 1.12 percent or 80.32 points to 7,071.67, a level not seen since early September 2009 and its fourth straight daily decline.
UMC, the world's No.2 contract chip maker, shed 1.4 percent and PC brand Acer fell 0.7 percent.
In Southeast Asia, the Singapore Straits Times Index ended flat and Malaysia's KLCI ended 0.1% higher.
Shares of shipping trust First Ship Lease fell as much as 9 percent, after a second vessel owned by the trust was detained in China because of debt owed by the ship lessee.
The first vessel was detained last week and both cases are related to a Cyprus shipping company.