Asia Returns With a Bang

Asian stock indexes closed higher on Wednesday after a session of choppy trade in Japanese markets. More convincing gains were seen in Taiwan and Hong Kong markets.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 regained 45.71 points, or 0.2%, to 21,970.81, after a session of choppy trade. Manufacturing stocks finished the day mostly higher, with Fanuc Manufacturing advancing 0.4% by the end of the session.

The Hang Seng Index went skyward 558.26 points, or 1.8%, to 31,431.89

Automakers and technology names were mixed, while bank stocks came under pressure. Among blue chip names, Toyota gained 0.1%, Honda rose 1.6% and SoftBank Group slipped 0.6% on the day.

In Hong Kong, markets enjoyed a massive breakout as financials led gains on the index. China Construction Bank rose 2.9% to contribute 75 points to the index's overall 492.84-point gain, while HSBC tacked on 1.1%, just an hour before the market close.

The property sector turned positive as the session wore on, with large cap property stocks carving out gains. Country Garden gained 4.3% and CK Asset traded flat. Meanwhile, oil-related and technology stocks also climbed, with CNOOC rising 2.5% and index heavyweight Tencent advancing 1.9%.

In Korea, steelmakers traded lower after the South Korean government submitted a World Trade Organization complaint over U.S. duties, although they finished the day off their session lows. Posco closed lower by 0.1% and Hyundai Steel was down 0.6% on the day.

Of note, the governor of the country's central bank on Wednesday said it was "prepared to respond" should the Federal Reserve raise interest rates more aggressively than markets were expecting

In Australia, the markets closed higher after hovering around the flat line for most of the session as investors focused on earnings releases. Gains in the consumer staples and discretionary sectors were offset by losses in the materials sector.

Major miners finished the session in the red: Shares of Fortescue Metals Group fell 4.7% after the company earlier reported that net profit after tax fell 44% to $681 million U.S. in the six months ending December. BHP closed down 4.8% after the mining major reported first-half earnings on Tuesday.

Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers reported on Tuesday that first-half net profit after tax came in at 212 million Australian dollars ($167 million U.S.) — an 86.6% decline compared to one year ago. Excluding a A$1.3-billion writedown, net profit stood at A$1.54 billion ($1.21 billion U.S.), a 2.7% decline from a year ago. Wesfarmers shares were up 3% by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, shares of a2 Milk surged 26.5% after the company announced record half-year profit. Investors also cheered a manufacturing and distribution agreement that the company signed with New Zealand-listed Fonterra.

In Taiwan, Apple suppliers put in a strong showing, with Largan Precision and Pegatron rising 7.3% and 5.1%, respectively.

Mainland China markets remained closed till Feb. 21 to reopen Thursday.

In other markets

The Kospi in Korea recovered 14.53 points, or 0.6%, to 2,429.65

In Taiwan, the Taiex ballooned 293.35 points, or 2.8%, to 10,714.44

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index recouped 39.7 points, or 1.1%, to 3,516.23

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 leaped 102 points, or 1.3%, to 8,200.27

The ASX 200 inched ahead 2.87 points, or 0.1%, to 5,943.72