Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday as investors booked profits following the previous day's rally. Earlier in the session, mini-stimulus measures from China and positive U.S. data helped lift regional sentiment.
China's State Council said on Wednesday it is ramping up spending on railways and housing as well as offering small business tax breaks. However, analysts expect more stimulus in the form of looser monetary policy, such as a cut in bank reserve requirements.
Tim Condon, Asia economist at ING, said the State Council announcement's was not a surprise following Premier Li Keqiang's supportive comments last Friday. "We consider the news of the announcement the lessening of the likelihood of a resort to go-stop monetary policy, which is positive for EM risk assets," Condon added.
Investors are also eyeing the possibility of new stimulus measures from the European Central Bank (ECB) when it announces its interest rate decision later in the day.
US data in focus
Wall Street shares rallied for the fourth consecutive session Wednesday, with the touching a fresh high, as investors digested a batch of economic reports.
Private employers added 191,000 workers in March, according to the ADP National Employment Report, rebounding from February's 178,000 figure. Meanwhile, factory orders gained 1.6 percent in February, the biggest gain since September.
Nikkei 0.8% higher
A weaker yen underpinned gains in Japanese markets, helping the benchmark Nikkei close at a new three-week high for a second straight session. The fell to its lowest level since January 23 at 104 per dollar in Asian trade, boosting exporters across the board.
Fast Retailing jumped 1.8 percent after reporting on Wednesday that same-store sales rose an annual 0.6 percent in March.
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Mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo gained 0.7 percent after the Nikkei reported it will invest about $4 billion to expand its wireless broadband technology.
Shanghai Composite eases 0.7%
Mainland shares reversed gains after hitting a one-week high earlier in the session on Beijing's fiscal stimulus measures.
Railway shares pared gains following a 5 percent rally earlier in the session after the Chinese cabinet said that it will speed up the construction of rail projects. China Railway Construction and China Railway Group ended 0.4 percent higher.
Property developers erased the previous day's gains after the China Securities Journal said that cities of Hangzhou and Wenshou have discussed plans to ease restrictions on home buying, but have yet to submit formal proposals.
China Merchants Property and Vanke eased over 2 percent each.
ASX gains 0.1%
Australia's rose to a fresh three-week high for a second straight session, but gains were capped due to mixed economic reports. February's trade surplus came in at A$1.2 billion, surpassing forecasts for a $A850 million, but retail sales only rose a monthly 0.2 percent, below estimates for a 0.3 percent increase.
Retailers shrugged off the data; David Jones and Harvey Norman rose by 1 percent each.
National Australia Bank eased 0.5 percent after CEO Cameron Clyne announced his resignation on Thursday. Bank of New Zealand boss Andrew Thorburn will take over the position on August 1.
The retreated further from 93 U.S. cents after central bank governor Glenn Stevens' said in a speech that it was too early to know whether the economy would be able to endure a mining slowdown without suffering lower growth.
Kospi slips 0.2%
South Korea's benchmark Kospi index snapped its four-day winning streak on profit taking after it hit a new 2014 high earlier in the session.
Samsung Electronics rallied 2.4 percent despite news that the Supreme Court of India has ordered chairman Lee Kun-Hee to appear before a court in India to face charges of cheating and fraud.
The fell after scaling an 11-month peak against the dollar in the previous session. Data released in early trade showed the nation's March foreign-exchange reserves hit a record high for a ninth straight month.
India 0.5% lower
India's benchmark index erased early gains after hitting a fresh record high of 22,620 earlier in the session. The meanwhile hovered near the 60 level against the greenback after Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan told CNBC that he wasn't concerned about the currency's recent strength.