Mainland indices up
It was another day of choppy trading for China's Shanghai Composite index, which inched up a modest 0.2 percent after December trade figures suggested that the world's second-largest economy ended the year on a more solid footing. The blue-chip CSI 300 index closed flat.
"It is not a huge surprise that China is heavily reliant on exports as a growth driver at the moment as domestic demand remains fragile. What this means is, while China can maintain steady terms of trade, it'll still need to work on stimulating domestic demand to keep growth ticking along," said Stan Shamu, IG market strategist.
Among the most active stocks, the Agricultural Bank of China traded 0.3 percent lower while Bank of China lost 0.7 percent. Brokerages were also downbeat, with Citic Securities and Haitong Securities pulling back 4 percent each. Founder Securities fell 1.7 percent.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained momentum to notch up 0.8 percent. Meanwhile, the yuan edged up against the greenback to fetch 6.2015 late Tuesday.
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Nikkei skids 0.6%
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index halved losses in the final hour of trade, allowing the stock index to rebound from a near one-week low on Tuesday. In the previous session, Japanese markets were shut for a holiday.
Positive data showing the country's current account recording a healthy surplus failed to lift sentiment earlier. According to government figures released before trade opening, Japan's current account posted a surplus for the fifth straight month in November, lifted by a rise in income from overseas investment on the back of a soft yen.
The local currency gained 0.4 percent against the greenback to trade at a three-and-a-half-week high of 117.8, which weighed on exporter stocks. Sony, Toshiba and Toyota Motor made losses between 3 to 1.2 percent.
Retailers also struggled on Tuesday following profit warnings. Aeon pulled back nearly 6 percent after it reported a 48 percent plunge in operating profit during the March-November period from a year earlier. Seven & i Holdings sagged over 3 percent following a worse than expected profit for the same period.
Japan Airlines, which was seen to benefit from lower fuel prices, bucked the downtrend to scale up 0.7 percent Tuesday.