Asia Close Mostly Higher Despite Looming 'Cliff' Woes

Asian shares closed mostly higher on Thursday, even though Japanese equities were unable to gain momentum from further stimulus amid investor worries about the looming U.S. "fiscal cliff" deadline.

ASX 200
CNBC 100

The Japanese central bank eased monetary policy on Thursday as it announced an increase of its asset-buying and lending program by 10 trillion yen ($118.7 billion), a widely expected move in response to intensifying pressure from incoming premier Shinzo Abe to deliver bolder steps to beat deflation.

The FTSE CNBC Asia 100 declined 0.1 percent.

Japan's Nikkei average dropped on Thursday in active trade after the central bank's third dose of monetary stimulus disappointed the market and triggered profit-taking, although the index managed to end above 10,000.

The benchmark index shed 1.2 percent to 10,039.33. The broader Topix was down 0.1 percent at 838.61.

(Read More: Why Falling Yen May Trigger Rise in Asian Stocks)

Automakers were among the worst sectoral performers amid a 5.5 percent slump in Mitsubishi Motors, after the company said it would recall about 1.2 million minicar vehicles in Japan due to faulty engine oil seals. Nissan Motor sank 7.4 percent, also hurt by a rating cut by Nomura, which said there was a risk of deterioration in short-term earnings.

Other exporters also succumbed to profit-taking, including Canon and industrial robot maker Fanuc, down between 2.1 and 3.6 percent.

Seoul shares rose on Thursday, bucking declines in other Asian markets, after the election of South Korea's new president raised hopes of policy to boost sectors from property to stock markets.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index ended up 0.32 percent at 1,999.50 points.

Builders gained ground on expectations of policy by the president-elect to lift the country's lackluster housing sector, with Daewoo Engineering & Construction gaining 4.8 percent and GS Engineering & Construction rising 4.3 percent.

Insurers were among the best performers after Moon, who pledged to beef up public insurance, failed in the presidential race. Dongbu Insurance rallied 6.3 percent, while LIG Insurance jumped 5 percent.

Samsung Electronics, the world's top smartphone maker, retreated nearly 1 percent after saying on Tuesday it would drop lawsuits aimed at banning the sale of Apple products in Europe, just a day after scoring a victory in a battle in the United States with the maker of iPhones.

Australian shares rose 0.4 percent on Thursday, buoyed by defensive stocks while investor sentiment remained averse after the governmentabandoned a long-held pledge to return its budget to surplus in the current financial year, which ends in June 2013.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.3 percent to 4,634.6 points.

Defensive stocks were strong, with telecommunications giant Telstra rising 0.2 percent, blood products maker CSL up 1 percent and supermarket giant Wesfarmer jumping 1.3 percent.

Qantas rose 0.7 percent after Australia's competition watchdog gave conditional approval to an alliance between the struggling airline and Dubai's Emirates.

Macquarie Group came off earlier highs to end up 0.4 percent. The company emerged as the lead bidder to buy Robeco. The asset management arm of Dutch bank Rabobank NV could fetch around 3 billion euros ($4 billion), one of the sources said.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index gained 1.3 percent to 4,075.4 points.

China shares ended at their highest since August, reversing midday losses on strength in big resource counters after the state-owned China Daily reported industry leaders as saying export quotas for rare earth metals will hold steady next year.

The CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings closed up 0.6 percent at 2,384.8, its fifth-straight daily gain. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.3 percent. Both indices hit their highest close since mid-August.

Hong Kong shares clung to 17-month highs, as strength in HSBC Holdings and Standard Chartered outweighed weakness in Chinese banks as investors rotated out of recent outperformers.

The Hang Seng Index closed up 0.2 percent at 22,659.8, reversing midday losses to stay at its highest since August 1, 2011. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong ended 0.3 percent down.

Chinese banks were hit by a bout of profit taking. Bank of China (BOC), which touched 52-week intra-day highs twice earlier this week, slipped 0.6 percent.

Investors rotated heavily into HSBC Holdings and Standard Chartered. HSBC climbed 1.4 percent to its highest since May 2011, while StanChart soared 3.1 percent to its highest since April.

Galaxy Entertainment Group jumped 4 percent to a record closing high, posting a fourth-straight daily gain after Deutsche Bank analysts upgraded on Monday its target price by 5.4 percent.

Over in Southeast Asia, Singapore's Straits Times Index closed up 0.5 percent while Malaysia's KL Composite Index ended 0.3 percent higher.

In India, the BSE Index finished 0.1 percent lower while the 50-share NSE Index ended down 0.2 percent.