Asian shares traded mixed on Wednesday as markets shrugged off an uninspiring handover from the U.S., a poor showing of the Japanese economy and key monthly indicators from China.
Overnight in the U.S., the S&P 500 closed 0.2 percent lower, with energy stocks dipping on the back of low oil prices. The Nasdaq fell 0.3 percent while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was little changed as investors kept a cautious eye on geopolitical events.
Trading volume was light amid the cautious mood. Consolidated volume on the New York Stock Exchange was 2.57 billion, below the average 3.1 billion and the lowest since July 3.
Reuters reported that Russia sent a 280 truck convoy to Ukraine carrying humanitarian aid but Kiev said it would not allow the vehicles to enter its territory. NATO fears the aid may be a disguised bid to invade Ukraine, following its annexation of the Crimea region in March.
Over in the Middle East, Israel and Hamas agreed on Sunday to a new 72-hour ceasefire, proposed by Egypt. Reports on Monday suggested the peace was holding.
Tokyo rebounds 0.4%
Japan's benchmark Nikkei index rebounded from earlier losses to chalk up gains for a third consecutive session, overlooking weak data that showed the economy contracting sharply in the April-June period.
According to data released just before trade on early Wednesday, Japan shrank an annualized 6.8 percent in the second quarter, compared with a Reuters forecast for a 7.1 percent contraction, as a nationwide consumption tax that took effect in April dragged on its recovery.
Mainland shares flat
China's Shanghai Composite Index saw volatile trade on Wednesday but managed to limit losses to close little changed, after the release of key monthly data offset the drag from weak July lending figures.
Retail sales rose 12.2 percent on-year in July, versus the estimate of a 12.4 percent rise. Industrial output gained 9 percent, in line with a Reuters forecast, after climbing 9.2 percent in June, data on Wednesday showed.
Most banking stocks languished after central bank data showed China's total social financing (TSF) aggregate, a broad measure of liquidity in the economy, falling to 273.1 billion ($44.34 billion) in July, about one seventh of that in June and the lowest monthly reading since October 2008.
The Bank of Communications and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China lost 0.7 and 0.6 percent, respectively. Smaller banks like Merchants Bank and Hua Xia Bank closed 0.7 percent lower, respectively.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong stocks recouped losses to add 0.1 percent.
Sydney falls 0.3%
Australia's key S&P ASX 200 index slipped into the red on Wednesday, hurt by steep losses in the banking and mining stocks.
Miners Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals tumbled 3 and 2.2 percent each, after copper prices fell to a six-week-low. OZ Minerals doubled its declines after midday, falling over 4 percent after reporting a loss of A$7.4 million in its fiscal first half.
The world's second-biggest blood-products maker CSL added nearly 3 percent, bolstered by a 7.8 percent rise in full year net profit after tax.
Seoul up 1%
South Korean shares rose for the third straight session to hit a near one-week-high of 2,062.
The Kospi index outperformed the region, as investors snapped up stocks ahead of the Bank of Korea's policy meeting on Thursday, where it is widely expected to cut rates for the first time since May 2013.
Top gainers include Kia Motors which piled on 2 percent but fellow carmaker Hyundai Motor closed 0.7 percent lower, after news that its union will go on strike starting from next Monday following failed wage negotiations.