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Asian indices mixed on Japan woes; FOMC minutes eyed

Trading was mixed in Asia on Wednesday, as sentiment turned cautious amid concerns over the health of Japan - the world's third largest economy - and ahead of the release of the U.S. Federal Reserves' meeting minutes.

Overnight, U.S. stocks climbed, lifting both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 to fresh all-time highs as a $66 billion deal by Actavis for Allergan drove gains in the healthcare sector and a gauge of sentiment among U.S. home builders increased more than expected. The Nasdaq advanced 0.7 percent.

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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Tokyo dips 0.3%

Japanese shares ceded early gains, ending lower after the Bank of Japan announced it would keep its monetary policy steady. A weak yen did little to boost sentiment; the yen weakened to a fresh 7-year low against the U.S. dollar, breaching the 117 handle.

The Nikkei 225 posted its biggest gain in two weeks on Tuesday and saw morning gains of half a percent, following Prime Minster Shinzo Abe's announcement of an early poll, as well as a delay in next year's sales tax increase, which is seen as likely to bring more measures to stimulate growth.

"Abe confirmed that he will stick to his 'three arrows' alongside stimulus if he is re-elected. He also announced that his cabinet are working on another economic stimulus program," Kathleen Brooks, research director U.K. EMEA at Forex.com, wrote in a note. "These are all pro-growth measures, which should be good news for the Nikkei in the long run."

Takata was the biggest loser, tumbling 7.4 percent after the U.S. auto safety regulator said that the regional recall of potentially lethal air bags should be expanded nationwide. Shares of the auto parts maker have slid 64 percent this year to five-and-a-half year lows.

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Mainland shares down

On the third day of the Shanghai-Hong Kong trade connect, both China's Shanghai Composite index and Hong Kong shares saw declines of 0.2 and 0.7 percent on the back of profit-taking. The Hang Seng index hit a one-and-a-half-week low late Wednesday.

Nearly 8 percent of the quota for "northbound" purchases of A-shares was used by mid-afternoon, according to Thomson Reuters data. The heavily traded Chinese stocks were SAIC Motor and Kweichow Moutai, which traded 4.7 and 1.7 percent lower.

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Sydney drops 0.6%

Australia's S&P ASX 200 index hit a near-four-week low in its third straight losing session, as a persistent slide in the resources sector took a toll on the bourse.

Miners were downbeat on the back of declining iron ore prices; BC Iron and Fortescue Metals plummeted over 12 and 7 percent, respectively. Atlas Iron receded 4.7 percent while Rio Tinto closed down 2.5 percent.

"With iron ore at a five-year low and iron ore futures retreating sharply through Asian trade, the likes of Fortescue Metals and Atlas Iron are significantly weaker. Key support levels have been breached and I would not suggest trying to pick the bottom in these stocks," wrote IG's market strategist Stan Shamu.

Read MoreAustralian exports to China still face hurdles

Seoul flat

After briefly touching a one-week high of 1,974, South Korean stocks lost early gains to finish little changed, on the back of nagging concerns over a weakening yen and its impact on domestic firms.

Earlier in the day, the country's Finance Minister said there was a "big concern about risks from yen weakness" and that the local economy's recovery was slightly weaker than previously thought, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, the South Korean won fell to a fresh 14-month low of 1,106 late Wednesday.

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Wellington near record highs

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index notched up 0.3 percent to close near a new record high of 5,524. Among gainers, gold prospector Oceanagold bolstered 6.3 percent.