Asian equity markets traded mixed on Wednesday. Overnight gains on Wall Street inspired a rebound in Japanese and South Korean shares, with the Nikkei leading gains after posting its worst drop since June 2012 on Tuesday.
Helped by some encouraging earnings and a steadier tone in emerging market currencies, the and the S&P 500 closed 0.7 percent higher, while the climbed 0.5 percent.
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Chinese markets remain closed for the Lunar New Year holiday. Hong Kong's benchmark index saw choppy trade on Wednesday, down 0.5 percent after posting gains early on.
Nikkei rebounds 1.2%
Japan's benchmark Nikkei index ended a week-long losing streak to close at 14,180, after a volatile session where it surged as much as 1.7 percent before briefly dipping into negative territory, dropping below the 14,000 mark for the first time since September 2013.
Traders cite program selling as the reason for the brief dip to 13,995. "It seems the market is seeing a little bit of sell programs. The offers suddenly got heavy before the afternoon open," a Tokyo-based trader at a foreign bank told Reuters.
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Investors also cheered data showing that wages in Japan posted an annual rise for the second consecutive month in December.
Electronics giant Panasonic was the top gainer in Tokyo, rallying nearly 19 percent after announcing that its quarterly earnings tripled and that it is nearing the end of its long-running restructuring.
Toyota Motor rallied over 6 percent, after the automaker raised its operating profit forecast to a record 2.4 trillion yen ($23.67 billion) for the first quarter of 2014.
Sony gained 5 percent, ending just below the one-week high of 1,650 yen hit earlier in the session. Its shares soared after the electronics conglomerate announced that it is in talks with Japan Industrial Partners to sell its loss-making Vaio personal computer business.
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Mitsubishi Motors, which is due to release its third quarter earnings late Wednesday, announced that it will have a new president and chief operating officer, Tetsuro Aikawa. Shares of the automaker rose 3.7 percent.
On the downside, Nintendo and Sharp lost nearly 4 and 3 percent, respectively, on the back of a stronger yen which traded at 101.4 against the dollar.
Kospi gains 0.2%
South Korean shares rebounded from the previous session's five-month closing low, as investors scooped up embattled stocks though persistent selling capped gains.
Blue chip stocks led gains, with Hyundai Motor up 1.1 percent while KB Financial Group piled on 0.7 percent. Kepco also saw an addition of 0.2 percent.
Lotte Himart added 0.4 percent, on news that its Initial Public Offering (IPO), worth $1 billion, has received approval from Singaporean authorities.
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Samsung was in the news on Wednesday amid speculation that it may be launching the Galaxy S5 this month; shares were down by nearly 1 percent.
Sydney falls 0.5%
Australia's benchmark index extended losses to close at a 7-week low of 5,070, as traders grappled with the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) decision to drop its easing bias and keep interest rates on hold at its first policy meeting of the year on Tuesday. "The RBA dropping its easing bias is probably one the reasons (for the market falling)," said Chris Kimber, managing director at Kimber Capital to Reuters.
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A stronger Australian dollar at 0.8891 against the dollar and caution before the upcoming earnings season also underpinned losses.
Banking stocks took a beating; Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and Australia and New Zealand Bank (ANZ) lost 0.9 percent each. The latter was ruled against by the courts in a class-action suit for charging customers additional fees for late loan payments. National Bank of Australia (NAB) shed 0.7 percent,
Mining stocks were also in the red. BHP Billiton lost 0.6 percent, marginally recovering from a loss of 0.8 percent which was its lowest level since October 2013 as investors weighed near-term supply tightness against tepid U.S. and Chinese factory data and an emerging market rout. BC Iron and Atlas Iron shed 0.4 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.
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Emerging markets mixed
Indonesia's benchmark Jakarta Composite index rose 0.4 percent despite data showing that gross domestic product (GDP) grew at its slowest pace in four years in 2013.
Thailand's SET index gained 0.5 percent, while Indian shares lost 0.2 percent.
— By CNBC.com's Tang See Kit.