Most Asian markets advanced on Wednesday, following gains in U.S. equities overnight after Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen struck a dovish tone in a scheduled speech but Japan's shares retreated as the yen strengthened.
Japan's Nikkei 225 closed down 224.57 points, or 1.31 percent, at 16,878.96. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi ended up 7.23 points, or 0.36 percent, at 2,002.14. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was higher 437.09 points, or 2.15 percent, at 20,803.39.
Australia's ASX 200 was off earlier highs, retracing gains of more than 1 percent to close up 5.75 points, or 0.11 percent, at 5,010.26.
Overnight, Yellen noted in prepared remarks to the Economic Club of New York that the Federal Reserve should proceed with caution in adjusting policy, acknowledging that economic and financial conditions are in some respects less favorable now than in December. She noted recent readings on the strength of the U.S. economy since the beginning of the year have been mixed.
On the policy front, she said research suggests that, with a funds rate at zero and increased uncertainty, the best policy is greater gradualism. Still, the Fed can hike if the economy grows faster, she said.
"Janet Yellen doubled down on dovishness, in a speech full of risks to the economic outlook," Mark Matthews, head of research for Asia at private bank Julius Baer, said in a note Wednesday. "She totally contradicted the four Fed presidents who spoke last week, and any chance of the April rate hike suggested by them is over."