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Asian shares end on mixed note

Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday, with Tokyo stocks dropping after the previous session's surge, as investors awaited US housing data and minutes from the Federal Reserve's meeting.

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday, with Tokyo stocks dropping after the previous session's surge, as investors awaited US housing data and minutes from the Federal Reserve's meeting.

The yen rebounded in Asia after tumbling on the Bank of Japan's (BoJ) decision on Tuesday to boost lending to commercial banks.

Tokyo lost 0.52 per cent, or 76.71 points, to 14,766.53, Seoul shed 0.20 per cent, or 3.98 points, to 1,942.93, while Sydney gained 0.29 per cent, or 15.4 points, to 5,408.2.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index added 1.11 per cent, or 23.48 points, to 2,142.55 and the Shenzhen Composite Index -- which tracks stocks on China's second exchange -- gained 0.14 per cent, or 1.58 points, to 1,157.20.

Hong Kong reversed early losses to rise 0.34 per cent, adding 76.8 points to 22,664.52.

The BoJ announced on Tuesday it would double the sum of loan schemes to banks in a bid to stimulate lending to firms and finance growth-stoking projects, such as environmental research and natural resources development.

That helped Tokyo's Nikkei index power 3.13 per cent higher on Tuesday, before profit-taking set in on Wednesday.

US stocks closed mostly higher on Tuesday as investors weighed mixed company news and an unexpected slump in home builder confidence.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.15 per cent to 16,130.40 while the broader S&P 500 index advanced 0.12 per cent to 1,840.76. The Nasdaq added 0.68 per cent to 4,272.78.

"Equity indices kicked off the abbreviated trading week on a relatively quiet note," analysts at Briefing.com said in a client note. US markets were closed on Monday for the Presidents' Day holiday.

Later Wednesday, investors are looking to minutes from Ben Bernanke's last meeting as Fed chief and US housing start figures for January.

"It will be interesting to see if there was any discussion to accelerate or slow the pace of tapering," National Australia Bank said, referring to the minutes.

The US central bank's move to pull back on its stimulus drive has rattled some emerging economy currencies including Russia's ruble, the South African rand and Turkey's lira.

Eyes are also on the new US housing data after shares of home builders came under pressure.

The National Association of Home Builders said its sentiment index tumbled to 46 in February from 56 in January. It largely blamed unusually severe weather in much of the country.

On currency markets, the dollar bought 102.19 yen in afternoon trade compared with 102.40 yen in New York on Tuesday.

The euro slipped to 140.60 yen from 140.89 while trading at US$1.3764 against US$1.3759.

Oil prices were mixed in Asian afternoon trade. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for March delivery, rose 37 cents to US$102.80 but Brent North Sea crude for April eased 26 cents to US$110.20.

Gold fetched US$1,318.37 an ounce at 1040 GMT from US$1,315.44 late Tuesday.

In other markets, Mumbai rose 0.43 per cent, or 88.76 points, to 20,722.97; Bangkok lost 0.39 per cent, or 5.21 points, to 1,321.00; Jakarta closed up 0.80 per cent, or 36.46 points, at 4,592.65; Kuala Lumpur gained 4.21 points, or 0.23 per cent, to close at 1,829.45; Manila climbed 1.63 per cent, or 100.65 points, to 6,294.62; Taipei rose 0.24 per cent, or 20.78 points, to 8,577.01; and Wellington gained 0.39 per cent, or 19.05 points, to 4,914.14.

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