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Asian stocks rise, but Nikkei lags on strong yen

Asian equities outside Japan traded higher on Thursday, underpinned by a strong rebound on Wall Street overnight as investors welcomed a dovish statement from the Federal Reserve.

Overnight, Wall Street closed sharply higher after the U.S. central bank suggested a less aggressive timeline for raising interest rates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 closed up more than 1 percent, respectively, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 0.9 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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ASX jumps 1.9%

Australia's S&P ASX 200 index outperformed the region by chalking up its biggest gain in five weeks as the Fed back-pedaled on when it will begin normalizing its monetary policy.

All the big four lenders advanced 2 percent each, as investors chase high-yielding stocks according to IG analysts; Westpac led the pack with a 2.7 percent rise. Gold-related counters got a boost from surging gold prices overnight; Newcrest Mining and Alacer Gold rallied 6.5 and 9 percent each.

Miners ignored a 3 percent slide in iron ore prices, with the market bellwether BHP Billiton up 1.3 percent. Fortescue Metals, which suffered steep losses for the past two days over a $2.5 billion high-yield bond issue, recouped 6.7 percent.

Myer Holdings, the country's top department store by sales, was the top laggard in early trade, slumping over 10 percent after announcing a 23.1 percent fall in first-half net profit.

Meanwhile in New Zealand, data released early Thursday showed the economy grew by 0.8 percent on quarter in the October-December period and expanded 3.5 percent on-year, the highest reading since September 2007. As a result, the benchmark stock index notched up 0.2 percent.

Read MoreBeijing's next task: balancing debt and growth

Shanghai Comp adds 0.2%

China's Shanghai Composite inched up to a fresh seven-year high of 3,582 after wavering between gains and losses.

Among the top gainers, CSR and China CNR rallied over 3 percent each, while utilities such as GD Power Development and Huadian Power International notched up 1.4 and 1.3 percent, respectively.

Everbright Bank, which have been rallying in the past few sessions after announcing a potential spin-off of its wealth management unit, tanked 3 percent. China Life Insurance and Ping An Insurance also eased over 2 percent each.

Chinese sports brand Li Ning bounced up 11 percent, brushing off news that it posted a loss for a third consecutive year. Internet behemoth Tencent ticked up 6 percent despite seeing its slowest revenue growth in 7 years.

Meanwhile, the broader Hang Seng index rose 1 percent to finish at a two-week high.

Nikkei falls 0.4%

Japanese stocks bucked the Fed-inspired rally in the region as the yen strengthened to hover near the 120 handle against the U.S. dollar. The Nikkei 225 first soared above the 19,000 milestone on March 13 and has clinched two 15-year closing highs over the past three sessions.

Among losers, exporter plays such as Nissan and Honda Motor fell 1.5 and 1 percent after being stung by the stronger currency. Financials also traded lower, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and SMFG losing 2.7 and 1.2 percent.

Sharp outperformed with a 2.2 percent gain after denying a report by the Nikkei Business Dailythat it plans to cut jobs at home and abroad, as well as lower the pay scale for Japanese workers. The electronics maker added it is considering various options to restructure its business although no decisions have been made.

Read MoreJapan wage hikes: Are they enough?

Kospi rises 0.5%

South Korea's Kospi index finished at a near six-month high, but advances were capped as index heavyweight Samsung Electronics turned negative. The heaviest weighted stock on the index reversed a higher open to drop 2.2 percent, drifting further away from record highs.

Hyundai Motor rebounded 1.1 percent, while shipbuilders like Hyundai Heavy Industries provided upward support by rallying 5.9 percent. Energy counters got a boost from a 6 percent surge in oil prices overnight; S-Oil and SK Innovation closed up nearly 4 percent each.

STI up 0.5%

Singapore continued to monitor the health of former prime minister and founding father Lee Kuan Yew after an official statement from the Prime Minister's Office said Thursday that the 91-year-old remains "critically ill."

The Singapore dollar weakened to 1.3833, from a two-week high of 1.3761 per dollar, after the update on Mr Lee's condition. Meanwhile, the benchmark Straits Times index joined the Asia-wide rally to close 0.7 percent higher.