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Asian Shares Mostly Higher Despite Brexit Blues

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Asian shares ended mostly higher on Wednesday even after the U.K. House of Commons voted down Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal by a crushing margin, stoking fresh uncertainty. Japanese stocks bucked the uptrend.

Investors now focus on a no-confidence vote on May's government by Britain's parliament later in the day.

Chinese shares ended little changed, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index inched up 0.08 points to 2,570.42 amid the political turmoil surrounding Brexit. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged up 0.3 percent to 26,902.10.

Meanwhile, Japanese shares dropped from a four-week high, as the dollar remained defensive against the yen amid a partial government shutdown in the U.S. and the "very uncertain and unstable" political situation in the U.K.

The Nikkei 225 Index fell 112.54 points or 0.6 percent to 20,442.75, while the broader Topix closed 0.3 percent lower at 1,537.77.

China-related shares were among the hardest hit, with Shiseido declining 2.4 percent after sharp gains the previous day. Hitachi lost 2.6 percent on profit taking after soaring 16 percent over the two previous sessions.

In economic news, Japanese core machinery orders, considered a leading indicator of capital spending, held largely unchanged month-on-month in November, well below forecasts for an increase of 3.0 percent and the 7.6 percent jump in October.

Australian stocks eked out modest gains, led by banks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 20.60 points or 0.4 percent to 5,835.20, and the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 21.90 points or 0.4 percent at 5,893.70.

Banks ANZ, NAB and Westpac rose between 0.3 percent and 0.9 percent, while mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto dropped around half a percent.

Gold miners Evolution, Newcrest and Northern Star shed 1-2 percent as a firmer dollar and a rebound in equities dented demand for the precious metal.

Energy stocks turned in a mixed performance despite a more than 3 percent increase in crude oil prices.

Tech stocks followed their U.S. counterparts higher, with Appen and WiseTech global climbing 3-4 percent.

On the economic front, a measure of Australian consumer confidence dropped to 99.6 in January from 104.4 in December.

Seoul stocks rose on hopes of more Chinese stimulus measures after China's central bank made its biggest daily net cash injection via reverse repo operations on record. The benchmark Kospi gained 8.92 points or 0.4 percent to close at 2,106.10.

New Zealand shares rose notably, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index ending up 62.86 points or 0.7 percent at 9,027.44, led by financial and consumer staple stocks. Dairy giant jumped 3.9 percent and Synlait Milk added 3.3 percent.

Investors shrugged off weak data showing overall credit card spending in New Zealand fell 1.9 percent sequentially in December, missing forecasts for a decline of 0.7 percent.

Overnight, U.S. stocks ended higher, with technology and internet companies leading the surge after a German court dismissed Qualcomm's patent lawsuit against Apple and Netflix revealed the biggest increase in subscription prices since launching its service twelve years ago.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.7 percent and the S&P 500 rallied 1.1 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped 1.7 percent.

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