The Nikkei 225 Average finished down but off earlier lows on Wednesday, hit by a late selling rush after that Merrill Lynch report. A stronger yen and weakness in U.S. semiconductor shares after a disappointing earnings forecast by Texas Instruments earlier this week also dragged Tokyo shares down, with Tokyo Electron sinking to a nearly two-year low.
South Korea's KOSPI ended in the red, also hit by the Merrill report. Trading house LG International tumbled 13.25 percent after reporting late Tuesday a 40.7 percent drop in third-quarter net profit, while plasma maker
Samsung SDI fell on expectations of lukewarm profit momentum.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index reversed course late in the session to close down 0.4 percent, as banking stocks sank on the Merrill report.
Hong Kong blue chips were slightly lower, despite Industrial & Commercial Bank of China reaching a record high, a day before the country's top lender is due to post its quarterly earnings. Shipping plays also surged to records in heavy trade, aided by an all-time high in the Baltic Dry Index, an indicator for commodity-freight rates.
Singapore's Straits Times Index swung into positive territory, despite weakness in banking shares such as DBS Group and UOB as investors unloaded positions ahead of third-quarter earnings announcements starting this week.
China's Shanghai Composite Index closed 1.2 percent higher, led by financial and property shares because of strength in the yuan, which rose to a new post-revaluation record against the dollar. However, turnover remained extremely low and most stocks actually fell,
showing many investors remained cautious about high valuations and tightening monetary policy.