Asian Stocks Close Higher; Japan Rallies

Asian shares closed higher on Wednesday in thin holiday trade despite a lack of fresh triggers. Japanese shares managed to outperform, hitting a 9-month high thanks to a weak yen.

With only a week left before a deadline for the United States to go over a "fiscal cliff," lawmakers are set to resume budget talks later this week to avoid harsh budget cuts and higher taxes for most Americans from New Year's Day.

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Financial markets in the U.S. and Europe were closed with only partial trading in major markets expected on Wednesday.

Markets in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong remain shut Wednesday for national holidays.

Japan's Nikkei share average closed at its highest point in nine months on Wednesday after the yen fell to a 20-month low on expectations of an aggressive monetary easing stance by the government of new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The benchmark index added 1.5 percent to 10,230.3 while the broader Topix index rose 1.1 percent to 847.7 points.

Shinzo Abe was approved as prime minister by the lower house of parliament just before the market close.

Exporters rallied with Sony leading gains by nearly 4 percent followed by Nissan Motor's 2 percent rise.

Hitachi shares jumped 2 percent after the company's top executive said on Tuesday it remains in talks with Lithuania over plans to build a nuclear plant in the European country.

Real estate shares and financials were also lifting the market on Abe's reflationary policy, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial adding 0.7 percent and Mitsui Fudosan rising 1.6 percent.

Shares in mainland China posted a third-straight daily gain on Wednesday, with the property sector boosted by a report outlining plans for further urbanisation in the country.

The CSI300 Index of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings ended up 0.4 percent at 2,457.6 while the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.2 percent to 2,219.1 points. They hit their respective highest closing levels since July 6.

Property shares climbed higher as Poly Real Estate rose 0.7 percent in Shanghai but trading in shares of China Vanke, the country's biggest property developer by sales, was suspended in Shenzhen pending an announcement.

Among the country's "Big Four" banks, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China declined 1.2 percent in Shanghai while smaller rival Bank of Beijing dropped 2.5 percent.

South Korean shares closed flat on Wednesday, paring gains in thin trade as some purchases made before the ex-dividend date, on Thursday, were offset by uncertainty, including questions over U.S. fiscal talks.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index inched up 0.02 percent to end at 1,982.2 points.

Blue-chips closed mixed. Heavyweight Samsung Electronics pared earlier gains to close down 0.3 percent at 1.47 million won per share, edging further away from to its lifetime high of 1.533 million won reached on Dec. 13.

Shares in electric power and gas companies were bullish with state utility Korea Electric Power up 1.7 percent while Korea Gas rose 2 percent.

But mobile carriers SK Telecom, KT Corp and LG Uplus all fell at least 0.4 percent after South Korea's telecommunications regulator on Monday decided to ban the carriers from attracting new subscribers for a combined 66 days.

Over in Southeast Asia, Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 0.4 percent higher while Malaysia's KLCI Composite Index ended up 0.1 percent.

Both India's BSE Index and the the 50-share NSE Index finished 0.9 percent higher.