Asia Mixed, Nikkei Hits 9-Month High

Asian stock markets traded mixed on Wednesday after a lower close on Wall Street.

Japan's stocks climbed to a nine-month high above 10,800 helped by a softer yen, with the benchmark's strong run encouraging foreign investors to broaden their buying to financial shares.

It was a third straight day of gains for the Nikkei , which has climbed some 18 percent since November when foreigners began snapping up lagging Tokyo stocks, with recent momentum coming from a big shift in market focus to developed economies from emerging ones.

The benchmark index ended the day up 0.6 percent, or 61.62 points, at 10,808.29, after hitting an intraday high of 10,842.31, its highest since May 6, 2010.

The broader Topix rose 0.5 percent to 967.30.

Exporters like Tokyo Electron and Advantest led the gains.

Seoul shares slipped after volatile trade, pressured by a second straight session of foreign selling and falls in automakers and crude refiners like SK Innovation.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) finished down 1.06 percent or 21.41 points at 1,989.11 points.

Banks bucked the trend and rose, with Shinhan Financial Group gaining 1.5 percent and Woori Finance up 1 percent.

Australian stocks closed flat in mixed trade with losses by market leader BHP Billiton and other resource stocks partly offset by solid gains for banking majors.

BHP Billiton, the world's biggest miner, finished 1.6 percent lower at A$46.59, despite announcing a share buyback as anticipated. The losses come after rallying in recent days.

The benchmark index fell 0.831 of a point to 4,930.2.

Taiwan stocks reversed earlier gains and ended 0.1 lower, with semiconductor shares turning negative later in the session.

The main TAIEX index slipped 8.97 points to 8,712.96, after opening up 0.21 percent. It had risen as much as 0.5 percent in morning trade.

Quanta Computer rose 1.8 percent and Acer rose 1.6 percent, given a lift by strong results
from Dell.

In China, the main stock index was little changed at midday, consolidating around the 2,900 level as investors took a step back after steady gains lifted the Shanghai Composite 3.4 percent this year.

Baosteel was up 1.7 percent while Wuhan Iron & Steel, China's third-largest producer, rose 1.1 percent.

Hong Kong shares rose as investors sought bargains among heavy-weighted financials, but low volumes pointed to a lack of conviction among market players.

The benchmark Hang Seng index rose 0.6 percent, recovering from the previous session's 1 percent dip.

Mainland banking shares were broadly higher in Hong Kong led by China Construction Bank, which rose 1.5 percent.

Insurers were also higher with China Life Insurance up 1.2 percent and rival Ping An climbing 1.9 percent.

Index heavyweight HSBC resumed its upward trend, advancing 1.4 percent and the biggest boost to the benchmark, after profit-taking saw shares fall to a two-week low.

Auto shares were weaker after Chinese vehicle sales data spurred investor interest in the sector over the past two sessions.

Brilliant China fell 3.8 percent after rising over 10 percent in the first two days of the week.

Warren Buffett-backed BYD slumped 2.6 percent to its lowest since July 2009 after reporting disappointing sales for January.

Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI) ended up 0.5% as gains in Keppel Corp and Singapore Technologies Engineering helped to support the benchmark index.

Shares of Keppel Corp, the world's largest rig builder, rose as much as 3.7 percent after the company signed a deal for two drilling rigs worth close to $1.2 billion.

Singapore Technologies Engineering, the world's largest aircraft repair firm, rose 2.2 percent to S$3.22 after it reported better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings, traders said.

The FTSE CNBC 100 Index inched 0.4 percent higher.