Asian stocks were mostly higher late Wednesday, reversing from early losses and overlooking news of a widening trade deficit in Japan, as traders awaited the release of the U.S. Federal Reserve's meeting minutes later in the day.
Wall Street closed higher on Tuesday as economic reports offered a benign view on inflation and a better-than-anticipated picture of the housing market. The Commerce Department reported that beginning home construction rose 15.7 percent in July on-month, while starts for volatile multi-family homes jumped 33 percent.
Geopolitics were in focus as a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip collapsed on Tuesday, with Palestinian militants firing rockets into Israel, prompting Israeli airstrikes that health officials said killed a woman and a young girl.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko are expected to meet next week, top officials told reporters on Tuesday. This comes as relations between the countries are at rock bottom, with Ukrainian forces continuing to fight pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.
Data released early Wednesday showed Japan's exports rising 3.9 percent in July from the year ago period while imports fell an annual 2.3 percent. This widened the country's trade deficit to 964 billion yen for July; expectations were for a trade gap of 702.5 billion yen.
Mainland shares mixed
China's Shanghai Composite Index closed down 0.2 percent on Wednesday.
Hong Kong stocks extended gains to hover at a six-year high. Among gainers, Galaxy Entertainment continued its winning momentum from Tuesday to rise 0.5 percent following the reporting of a strong first-half net profit.
"On technical analysis, the Index is following an upward trend line," wrote IG's market strategist Ryan Huang in a note. "The market expectation of further stimulus measures from China has been feeding much of the optimism. Despite rather soft macro data from China earlier in the week, investors appear to remain bullish on stock valuations and a slew of positive corporate earnings."
Sydney adds 0.2%
Australia's key S&P ASX 200 index reversed losses to close at a three-week high on Wednesday amid a deluge of earnings releases.
Miner Fortescue Metals shed 1.6 percent despite its fiscal year net profit attributable to members rose an annual 56 percent.
South Korea's key Kospi index recouped losses after midday to end Wednesday slightly higher.
Gains in blue-chip shares lifted the bourse; Posco jumped 2.4 percent while Samsung Electronics added 0.6 percent, on news that it is acquiring U.S. retailer Quietside in a bid to break into the U.S. home retailing space.
Hyundai Motor reversed losses to gain 0.7 percent despite news that its union workers may be going on strike along with staff of Kia Motors on Friday. Shares of the latter reversed losses to close up 0.5 percent.