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Asian Stocks Mixed After Oil Prices Ease

Stocks in Japan and South Korea traded higher on Wednesday, helped by an overnight rally on Wall Streetand a pullback in oil prices.

But shares in a few key markets including Australia and Singapore tracked lower.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei pierced a key technical level, extending gains for a second day. But worries about the potential for unrest to spread in the Middle East kept investors on edge.

With the settlement of Nikkei futures and options coming up on Friday, moves by commodity trading advisors in futures, which have sparked big swings in the benchmark recently, are also a key focus for the market.

Toyota Motor climbed 1.2 percent to 3,745 yen. A source said it will forecast a minimum operating profit of 1 trillion yen ($12.1 billion) and a profit margin of 5 percent in two to three years as part of its business strategy to be unveiled on Wednesday.

Shares of Dainippon Screen Mfg jumped 4.6 percent to 839 yen after the publisher of Nikkei 225 said it would be added to the benchmark later this month.

Oil-sensitive stocks, such as Japan's biggest oil and gas developer, Inpex, which have surged on the back of advances made by oil, succumbed to profit-taking after U.S. crude dropped for a second day, below $105 on Wednesday, after reassurances from OPEC members of ample spare capacity. Inpex lost 1 percent to 579,000 yen.

Vantec spiked 25.8 percent to 146,400 yen after the Nikkei business daily reported Hitachi Transport System aims to take a majority stake in the automotive logistics service provider through an imminent tender offer.

Hitachi Transport's shares also outperformed the rise on the Nikkei, adding 2.7 percent to 1,312 yen.

Seoul Shares Rise

Seoul shares rose on Wednesday after crude oil prices dipped on news OPEC was in talks about boosting supplies, lifting transporters, while banks surged ahead of the central bank's interest rate meeting on Thursday.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.20 percent at 2,000.28 points near mid-day.

Foreign investors were buyers of a net 11.2 billion won ($10.05 million) worth of stocks, after two straight selling sessions.

Shares in banks rallied on expectations for a rate hike at the Bank of Korea's monthly interest rate setting meeting.

Positive earnings expectations helped further as reduced loan loss provisions were seen boosting margins, analysts said.

Gains were led by shareholder banks of Hyundai Engineering & Construction including Woori Finance Holdings, as they are set to see profits from its sale in the second quarter, according to Lee Byung-gun, an analyst at Dongbu Securities.

Shares in Woori Finance Holdings, which owns around 7.5 percent of Hyundai E&C, rose 4.2 percent. Korea Exchange Bank, which controls around 8.7 percent, rallied 3.2 percent.

Automakers outperformed on expectations of solid earnings.

Hyundai Motor's higher-margin luxury and mid-range sedans have sold well in the domestic market, said Gregory Kim, an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities.

Transporters also rallied on crude oil prices' retreat.

Shares in Korean Air Line climbed 1.3 percent and Asiana Airlines advanced 2 percent.

Australia Shares Breach Key Support

Australian stocks dropped 0.8 percent on Wednesday to breach a key chart support level and hit a more than one month low as concerns grew that Middle East tensions and Europe's resurfacing debt woes could curb global demand for natural resources.

Global miner BHP Billiton fell 1.3 percent while rival Rio Tinto dropped 1.8 percent.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 40.5 points to 4,767.80, according to latest available data.

The index has broken the trend line support level of 4,786 that began in July last year. It has tested the level three times but did not close below it, indicating technical weakness in the market.

Extract Resources shares jumped another 8 percent to A$10.73 after Tuesday's 7 percent gain as investors hoped it could become a target for Rio Tinto after a Chinese bid approach for the uranium miner's 43 percent shareholder Kalahari Minerals .

Hunnu Coal shares surged 11.3 percent to A$1.38 after Thailand's Banpu said its wholly unit Banpu Minerals (Singapore) has formed a partnership with Hunnu.

Under the terms of the partnership, BMS will buy 30 million shares in Hunnu through a private placement at A$1.50 each for A$45 million.

Shares in OZ Minerals dropped 2.2 percent after it signed an agreement to purchase the Carrapateena copper-gold project in South Australia for $250 million, plus further payments when commercial production is reached.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 Index slipped 0.2 percent to 3,414.42.

HK Shares Rise to One-Month High

Hong Kong stocks reached their highest level in a month on optimism over earnings, while reduced worry about monetary tightening in China and attractive valuations kept supporting the case for going long mainland banks.

CCB gained 1.7 percent and larger rival ICBC closed up 1.5 percent and were the biggest boost to the Hong Kong market.

China's Shanghai Composite ended up 0.1 percent, closing over the key 3,000-point level for the first time in nearly four months, but volumes eased.

The market's overall gains were tempered by profit-taking in energy counters, which fell after gains earlier in the week linked to high oil prices. China Shenhua Energy ,the country's largest coal company, ended down 1.5 percent.

In Southeast Asia, markets traded in opposite directions. Singapore's Straits Times Index ended down 0.4 percent, while Malaysia's KL Composite closed up 0.4 percent.

Finally, the FTSE CNBC Asia 100 Index , which measures markets across Asia, was flat on Wednesday.

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