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Asia stocks mostly higher on dovish Fed minutes; strong yen hurts Nikkei

Asia equities ended mostly higher on Thursday following reassurance that the U.S. Federal Reserve would not raise interest rates anytime soon but a stronger yen weighed on Japanese shares.

South Korean markets were shut for a public holiday.

Minutes from the Federal Reserve's September 16-17 policy meeting released on Wednesday confirmed the central bank's dovish tone. They also showed a heated debate on forward guidance. Some members argued that current language painted the wrong picture on the timing of rate hikes and pushed for rate hikes to be more dependent on economic data.

Wall Street indices closed up nearly 2 percent overnight following the minutes, their biggest one-day gain of the year.

"The minutes were a very clear reminder that the 'considerable period' of time is going nowhere in the interim and that the Fed was massaging market expectations as best it could...The majority still see slack in the employment market, the Fed's growth and inflation outlooks were downgraded and the minutes gave the distinct impression that nothing will change come the October meeting either," said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG.

Read MoreAfter the Fed minutes, focus moves to earnings

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Nikkei 0.7% lower

Japan's benchmark Nikkei index reversed gains in the afternoon session to finish at a new one-month low, down for a second session. A stronger yen weighed on sentiment with the currency trading in sight of a new three-week high against the dollar.

Earlier in the session, the index rose on strong August data; Machinery orders surged 4.7 percent on month, blowing past forecasts for a 0.9 percent increase.

Uniqlo store operator Fast Retailing increased 1.5 percent ahead of reporting fiscal year earnings.

Read MoreJapan aims to turn robotics into profit

ASX 1% higher

Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 index rallied to a one-week closing high after ending at an eight-month low on Wednesday as investors shrugged off a weak jobs report. The economy lost 29,700 jobs in September, missing estimates for a rise of 20,000 jobs.

Financials outperformed the broader index with Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia New Zealand Banking nearly 2 percent higher. National Australia Bank jumped 1 percent after warning that full-year cash earnings could drop up to 14 percent due to higher charges from its U.K. businesses.

Read MoreFuel inflation a risky juggle for this Asia heavyweight

Shanghai gains 0.3%

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite index hit its highest levels since February 2013 for the seventh straight session. A stronger yuan caped larger losses on the index as the currency rose for a second day against the dollar.

Read MoreHas the yuan become a 'safe haven' trade?

Environment shares rallied after Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday that the government will launch major investment projects in water conservancy and environmental protection this year. Beijing Capital jumped 3 percent and SPC Environment rose nearly 2 percent.

Emerging markets in focus

Malaysia's benchmark KLCI Index gained 0.3 percent with financials in focus after Reuters reported that CIMB and two smaller lenders agreed to create the country's biggest bank. Shares of the three banks were suspended pending an announcement.

Meanwhile, Indian shares jumped 1.5 percent, snapping a three-day losing steak.