Asian shares were mixed in cautious trade on Tuesday after data on China's manufacturing sector painted a mixed picture of the world's second largest economy.
Beijing's official purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose to 50.3 in March from 50.2 in February, in line with analyst expectations. Still, the figure was below January's 50.5 figure. Separately, HSBC's final reading came in at 48, a touch below last week's preliminary reading of 48.1.
"Today's [official] PMI data would come as a relief for policymakers, as it suggests that the economy is not slowing as quickly as the PMIs indicated earlier," said Jian Chang, chief China economist at Barclays in a note.
Yellen remarks in focus
A positive handover from Wall Street underpinned gains in Asia. The Dow logged triple-digit gains after Yellen said there's still room for the central bank to help the economy. During a speech in Chicago, Yellen said that the Fed's "extraordinary commitment," in the form of massive bond-buying, is "still needed, and will be for some time."
Shanghai gains 0.7%
Mainland shares rebounded after hitting a more than one-week closing low on Monday thanks to strong gains in liquor companies. Kweichow Moutai rose 5.0 percent and Jiangsu Yanghe Brewery climbed 5.2 percent.
Retailers rose on reports that the monthly minimum wage in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin is set to rise by 11.4 to 12.3 percent from Tuesday. Beijing Wangfujing Department Store jumped 3 percent while Beijing Hualian Department Store added 0.6 percent.
Nikkei 0.2% lower
Japanese shares retreated from the previous days' three-week high following a choppy trading session as investors digested weak economic data. The Bank of Japan's Tankan survey of sentiment among big manufacturers for March came in just a touch below analyst estimates in a Reuters poll.
"While fiscal cushions could come through, the risk is that business sentiments have not attained escape velocity and consumers are still struggling with inadequate wage rise," said Vishnu Varathan, senior economist at Mizuho Bank.
But a weaker currency helped prevent larger losses. hit a three-week high of 103.44 overnight and hovered near those levels in Asian trade.
Retailers fell as a rise in the country's sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent kicks in. The tax hike comes a day after data showed that factory output unexpectedly fell in February. Takashimaya fell 2 percent while Aeon and Fast Retailing lost over 1 percent each.
Kospi gains 0.3%
South Korea's benchmark Kospi reversed early losses to hit a fresh 3-month closing high for a third straight session after the new Bank of Korea governor Lee Ju-Yeol promised consistent and predictable monetary policy. Meanwhile, the rose to a 3-week high against the greenback.
Upbeat economic data also boosted sentiment. Manufacturing activity expanded in March, according to the HSBC/Markit purchasing managers' index, which rose above the key 50-level.
ASX falls 0.1%
Australia's benchmark pared losses but still retreated from Monday's two-week closing high after the Reserve Bank of Australia left its key interest rate unchanged at 2.5 percent and reiterated its commitment to a period of rate stability, as widely expected.
Meanwhile, the Australian dollar fell to $0.9260 after briefly hitting a 4-month peak of $0.9310 following the decision.
India dips 0.1%
India's benchmark index finished 0.27 percent higher after the Reserve Bank of India left its repo rate unchanged. Earlier in the session, the index hit a record high of 22,485 points.