Asian Shares Rise; Nikkei Jumps on BOJ Governor's Early Departure
Asian shares gained on Wednesday as solid euro zone data calmed nerves jarred by potential political turmoil in Spain and Italy, while the prospect of a dovish new governor for the Bank of Japan sent the country's stocks surging.
Japan's jumped 3.8 percent to close at its highest since October 2008, after the yen fell sharply on bets that the central bank governor's decision to step down early will leave the door open for a governor eager for more aggressive monetary easing.
(Read More: Bank of Japan Governor to Leave Job Early)
The broader Topix jumped 3.1 percent to 986.82 in heavy trade, with 4.61 billion shares changing hands, just under Tuesday's 4.8 billion shares, which was the highest since March 2011.
Currency-sensitive shares jumped. Toyota Motor, being the most traded stock on board by turnover, climbed 6.1 percent to its highest level since September 2008, also supported by a hike in its full-year operating profit guidance by 10 percent on the weaker yen and a firmer U.S. sales forecast.
(Read More: Toyota Shares Surge Past 4-Year Highs After Earnings)
South Korean shares dipped for the fifth day in the shallowest session so far this year. The KOSPI closed down 0.1 percent at 1,936.19 points, a two-month low.
However, chipmaker SK Hynix rose 3.4 percent, rebounding from Tuesday's 2.5 percent loss.
Australian shares rallied 0.8 percent, led by financials, after a rebound on Wall Street following strong U.S. earnings.
Banks were firmer with Westpac banking Corp leading gains, jumping 0.8 percent.
Investors shrugged off the softer retail sales data. Retail sales dipped 0.2 percent in December to A$21.42 billion ($22.3 billion), upsetting forecasts of a 0.3 percent increase. The last time sales fell for three months in a row was in late 1999/early 2000.
The ended 38.3 points higher at 4,921 according to latest data. The benchmark index fell 0.5 percent on Tuesday.
New Zealand's market is closed for the Waitangi Day public holiday.
Hong Kong shares rebounded from the previous day's tumble, helped by strength in China Mobile and other defensive counters that showed investors remain cautious.
The Hang Seng Index closed up 0.5 percent at 23,256.9 and the China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong rose 0.3 percent. Both indexes had slid on Tuesday to their lowest close since January 8.
Popular defensive plays, which lagged behind as more growth-sensitive stocks powered the rally from lows last year, were broadly higher. Hong Kong utilities provider Power Assets gained 1.6 percent and China Mobile rose 1 percent.
Chinese property developers sank after a plan that Beijing announced late on Tuesday to tackle inequality included an expansion of a property tax pilot program to more cities.
The Macau gambling sector was hit by a report in The Times of London that Beijing is planning a crackdown after the Lunar New Year holiday next week on triad-linked "junket" operators who bring high-rollers from mainland China.
(Read More: Macau Gambling Stocks Slide on Fears of Crackdown)
China shares stretched gains to multi-month highs, lifted by strength in non-banking financials that offset weakness in property after a plan to tackle inequality included an expansion of a property tax pilot program to more cities.
The CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings ended up 0.2 percent at 2,775.8, its highest close since September 2011. The stretched its winning streak into an eighth day, ending up 0.1 percent at its highest since May 2012.
Insurers were bolstered by a Chinese news report that the mainland regulators are planning to raise the minimum registered capital requirement for insurers to improve the performance of the insurance market.
Indian shares ended flat as active participants refrained from long positions in the absence of fresh triggers, with HDFC gaining after cutting its prime lending rate, while NTPC slipped ahead of a share sale.
Shares in HDFC were up 1.1 percent, while NTPC fell 2.4 percent.
The BSE index provisionally ended 0.16 percent lower, and the 50-share NSE index gained 0.01 percent.
In Southeast Asia, Singapore's STI was up 0.1 percent while Malaysia's KLCI fell 1.2 percent.
Shares of Singapore DBS Group Holdings fell 1.6 percent after the bank reported a lower-than-expected 11 percent rise in core net profit, hit by weak margins.
(Read More: Southeast Asia's Biggest Lender Misses in Earnings)