Asia Mixed; Nikkei Falls on Stronger Yen

ASX 200
CNBC 100

Asian shares closed mixed on Wednesday amid caution as the earnings season gathers pace, with Tokyo stocks falling to three-week closing lows.

The FTSE CNBC Asia 100 Index, which tracks the performance of the largest companies in Asia Pacific, fell 0.2 percent.

Japanese shares pulled back after the Bank of Japan's latest aggressive easing fell short of some expectations for immediate action, sending the yen higher.

(Read More: BOJ Pledges to Buy Assets; 'Yes' to 2% Inflation Target)

Exporters succumbed to profit-taking, with Toyota Motor falling 2 percent, Nissan Motor dropping 2.7 percent and Fanuc Corp shedding 1.7 percent.

The benchmark Nikkei average closed down 2.08 percent at 10,486.99 on Wednesday, while the broader Topix shed 1.48 percent to 887.79.

South Korean shares fell, sliding steadily from positive territory mid-session on profit-taking by local institutions after a firming yen had lifted the main index to a one-week high in the previous session.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) fell 0.8 percent to close at 1,980.41 points.

Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics fell 0.5 percent, paring the previous day's gains and extending its losses so far this year to nearly 7 percent.

Auto shares were one of few bullish sectors as the yen held firm on some disappointment after the Bank of Japan's latest monetary easing on Tuesday, with Hyundai Motor closing up 1.6 percent.

Among other major movers, shares in LG Household & Healthcare plunged 7.5 percent after the personal hygiene products maker posted a Q4 operating profit of $74.65 million late on Tuesday, which was below market consensus.

Australian shares rose 0.2 percent, enough to secure the highest close in almost 21 months as miner BHP Billiton gained after reporting a rise in iron ore production.

The market barely flinched as data showed Australian consumer price inflation was unexpectedly benign last quarter due to falls in food, electronics and drugs.

The local dollar eased slightly as the data slightly improved chances for an interest rate cut next month.

Top miner BHP rose 1.3 percent to A$37.06 after it reported a 3 percent rise in iron ore production in the December quarter.

Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 9 points to 4,787.8, according to the latest data, the best since May 2 2011. New Zealand's NZX 50 index rose less than a point to 4,187.7.

Hong Kong shares slipped from a 19-1/2-month high, pulled down by weakness among growth-sensitive counters as benchmark indexes faltered at chart resistance levels after a strong start to the year.

The Hang Seng Index closed down 0.1 percent at 23,635.1 after closing on Tuesday at its highest since June 1, 2011. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong shed 0.3 percent.

Chinese sportswear brand Li Ning tumbled 5.3 percent after one Hong Kong media report said the sector still faces inventory issues. The report said one outlet was selling items with discounts up to 90 percent. Wednesday's losses trimmed Li Ning's January gains to 23 percent.

Insurer AIA Group continued its bounce from Monday's one-month low, rising 1.8 percent as investors piled into the laggard, attracted by its steady earnings potential, after taking profit on beta outperformers.

Chinese coal producers were key sources of weakness. The sector has been hit by two profit warnings earlier this week and Goldman Sachs warned there could be more in store, with Yanzhou Coal identified as a likely candidate.

Yanzhou Coal shares in Hong Kong fell 0.4 percent, while shedding 1.9 percent in Shanghai after Goldman analysts said they expect disappointing full year 2012 earnings for the sector and see downside risks to consensus for the the following year on prolonged coal price weakness.

Mainland Chinese shares crawled higher to levels just shy of 7-1/2-month highs, with strength in financials outweighing weakness in railway and coal counters.

The Shanghai Composite Index ended up 0.3 percent at 2,320.91.

In India, the benchmark BSE index ends up 0.3 percent and the broader NSE index closes higher 0.2 percent.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore's Straits Times Index and Malaysia' KLCI Composite both rose 0.4 percent.