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Chinese shares underperform after soft data

Chinese stocks retreated late Wednesday after a fresh batch of economic indicators came in just shy of expectations. For the rest of the region, stock bourses advanced, with both Sydney and Seoul finishing at a one-week high.

Industrial output increased 5.9 percent in April from the year-ago period, just shy of the 6 percent forecast by a Reuters poll and after climbing 5.6 percent in March. Meanwhile, retail sales grew 10 percent on-year, missing the 10.5 increase expected, while year-to-date fixed asset investment rose 12 percent, compared with 13.5 percent forecast.

Wall Street finished mildly lower overnight, recovering from the sharp morning selloff as investors found some relief from a slight recovery in the bond market. The Nasdaq Composite settled down 0.4 percent, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 shed 0.2 and 0.3 percent, respectively.

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 gains 0.7%

Australia's S&P ASX 200 index settled at a one-week high as traders deemed the country's newly released federal budget as market friendly.

Consumer-related counters cheered the issuance of tax breaks; electronics providers JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman surged 2.1 and 5 percent, respectively, while office equipment and hardware provider Wesfarmers gained 1.5 percent.

As Canberra dished out an extra $3.5 billion Australian dollars in childcare, education stock Affinity Education Group leaped 1.9 percent, but G8 Education reversed a higher open to close down 0.5 percent.

Firmer oil and gold prices supported the resources sector, with Santos and Newcrest Mining elevating 0.6 and 2.8 percent, respectively. Sirius Resources soared 5.5 percent after signing a deal to sell copper concentrate from one of its mines.

Read MoreChina's economy looks terrible, but it's a buy: Pimco

Shanghai Comp falls 0.6%

China's Shanghai Composite index fell back into the red after turning positive following the data release. The Shanghai bourse had wavered between small gains and losses all day, as worries over a raft of new share listings took hold, while the CSI300 index of the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen dropped 0.6 percent.

Decliners included brokerage houses and insurers; Founder Securities and Haitong Securities plunged 3.1 and 2.7 percent, respectively, while Ping An Insurance and China Life Insurance closed down 2.2 and 1.8 percent, respectively.

In Hong Kong, Hang Seng Bank - a subsidiary of British banking giant HSBC - rallied 2.8 percent following news that it is selling its stake in Shanghai-listed Industrial Bank. Shares of the latter eased 2.3 percent, while HSBC sagged 0.7 percent.

Meanwhile, China Resources Land, the property developer arm of conglomerate China Resources Group, tumbled 6.8 percent following Tuesday's announcement of a share placement in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing widened losses to 1.6 percent despite meeting expectations with its first quarter earnings released at midday. The broader Hang Seng index came under pressure in the final hour of trade to notch down 0.7 percent after a day of relatively muted moves.

Kospi rises 0.8%

South Korea's key Kospi index chalked up its biggest single-day gain in three weeks to finish at a one-week high on the back of stellar gains in retail and energy stocks.

The country's department store giant Shinsegae released higher-than-expected first-quarter earnings after the market close on Tuesday, bumping up its share price by 11 percent to 230,000 won - its highest level since October 2014. Hyundai Department Store appeared to be unaffected by the miss in first-quarter earnings, advancing 7.3 percent.

Samsung Life Insurance also got a fillip from robust first-quarter earnings as shares rose 7.3 percent.

SK Innovation led advances in the energy sector, with a rise of 5.7 percent. S-Oil and GS Holdings also surged 2.9 and 3.5 percent, respectively.

Nikkei climbs 0.7%

Reversing a lower open, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index edged up in line with the turn of trading sentiment across the region.

Figures from the Ministry of Finance showed the country logging its highest current account surplus in seven years, but the data released before the market open seemed to have little market impact. For March, the surplus stood at 2.795 trillion yen, marking the ninth straight month in which the current account balance remained in the black.

The automobile sector was in the spotlight as Nissan Motor prepares to hand in earnings results after the market close. Shares of the Yokohama-based carmaker fell 1 percent, while Toyota Motor and Honda lost more than 1 percent each.

Other laggards include mobile carrier Softbank and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, which closed down 0.2 and 2.6 percent, respectively.

Indian markets up

India's benchmark BSE index and the broader NSE index recouped most of Tuesday's steep losses, closing up 1.3 percent each. Meanwhile, the rupee hovered near the key 64 per U.S. dollar level amid heightened concerns over foreign portfolio outflows.