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Chinese stocks rebounded on Wednesday, taking the lead in a broader recovery in Asian markets, that was encouraged by Beijing's determination to stabilize its equity markets and a positive finish on Wall Street overnight.
Meanwhile, investors were in a wait-and-see mood ahead of the Federal Reserve's policy statement, which is expected to provide further clues on the timing of a U.S. rate increase.
Mainland indices higher
After swinging between gains and losses for most of Wednesday's trading session, China's Shanghai Composite index regained positive momentum to charge up 3.5 percent, snapping a three-day losing streak, on hopes that Beijing could stem the rout in its markets.
According to Reuters, the rise on Wednesday was the bourse's biggest daily gain in one and a half weeks.
The China Securities Regulatory Commission said late Monday that the local government will increase purchases of stocks, while the central bank injected cash into money markets and hinted at further monetary easing. On late Tuesday, the country's securities regulator said it was investigating share dumping incidents that occurred on Monday.
"Call it what you will; the aptly named 'rescue squad' have made their intentions clear and will continue to support the Chinese markets at any cost. The strength is seen in the 200-day moving average and further investigations into Monday's price plunge will limit major downswings for the next few weeks," IG's market strategist Evan Lucas wrote in a note early Monday.
Among gainers, China Shipbuilding topped the leaderboard by rising the daily limit of 10 percent.
On the other hand, blue chips put up a mixed showing; PetroChina closed down 1.7 percent, while Bank of China eased 0.6 percent. China Vanke sagged 0.1 percent, and Poly Real Estate bounced up 3 percent.
Among China's other indexes, the CSI300 index and the smaller Shenzhen Composite reversed course to surge 3.1 and 4.1 percent, respectively. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index drifted 0.4 percent higher.
Nikkei sheds 0.1%
A sharp decline in market heavyweight Fanuc weighed on Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225, which reversed early gains to finish a whisker below the flatline. Short-term activity in the U.S., Chinese equity market and commodities also hurt sentiment in Tokyo, IG analysts said.
At the open, the Tokyo bourse scored an intra-day high of 20,425 after rising 0.47 percent, on the back of better-than-expected retail sales.
According to government data released before the market open, retail sales rose an annual 0.9 percent in June, topping expectations for a 0.50 percent gain, but still slowing sharply from a 3 percent spike in the previous month.
Fanuc ended down 11 percent after the industrial robot maker lowered its full-year profit forecast on Tuesday.
Nintendo tanked 1.1 percent in today's session, but shares may recover after the consumer electronics giant reported a surprise first-quarter operating profit late Wednesday. Carmaker Nissan inched up 0.2 percent ahead of the release of quarterly earnings.
ASX rises 0.7%
Australia's S&P ASX 200 index steadied at a one-week high throughout Wednesday, thanks to the recovery in commodity prices.
Market bellwether BHP Billiton closed up 2 percent, while Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals bounced up 1 and 7.4 percent, respectively, on the back of bargain hunting. Energy counters Oil Search and Woodside Petroleum gained more than 1 percent each.
Within the financial space, National Australia Bank closed up nearly 1 percent on the back of news that it finished selling its U.S. unit. Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac added 0.3 and 0.6 percent, respectively.
South Korea's Kospi index erased early advances to finish slightly in the red, hurt by hefty losses in the pharmaceutical sector.
A gauge of Korean pharmaceutical stocks tumbled 8.7 percent, with Hanmi Pharmaceutical being the biggest laggard in the sector.
The drugmaker closed down 18.4 percent, reversing course from a near 10 percent rally at the start of trade following Tuesday's announcement that it signed an 850 billion won ($728.8 billion) license agreement with German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim to jointly develop a lung cancer treatment.
Among gainers, the heaviest-weighted stock Samsung Electronics ended up 2.7 percent ahead of its second-quarter earnings results due before the market open on Thursday.
LG Electronics announced a 60 percent plunge in quarterly profit after the market close, plummeting below expectations. Shares of the consumer electronics firm ended up 1.8 percent on Wednesday.
Lotte Shopping outperformed fellow retailers to surge 6.6 percent after South Korean media reported that founding family members at parent Lotte Group appeared to clash this week over the control of a key holding company.
Malaysian shares were lackluster following Tuesday's announcement of a cabinet reshuffle, which saw five ministers including the country's Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, being sacked. Yassin had earlier called on Prime Minister Najib Razak to explain a growing graft scandal at debt-laden state investment fund 1MDB.
In Singapore, the Straits Times index was little changed from its previous close, hovering near its lowest level in nearly three weeks. Among the companies releasing corporate earnings, shares of Singapore Post advanced 0.8 percent after delivering a 16 percent rise in first-quarter profit.
Meanwhile, shares of Garuda Indonesia jumped 3.5 percent on Wednesday, as the carrier swung to a net profit in the first half of the year from a loss a year earlier. The broader Jakarta Composite edged up 0.2 percent.