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Asian Shares Mixed Despite Strong China Data

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Asian stocks ended mixed on Wednesday even as upbeat Chinese economic data helped ease worries about a global economic slowdown.

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 9.52 points or 0.3 percent to finish at 3,263.12, its highest closing level in over a year. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended little changed at 30,124.68.

On the economic front, Chinese GDP grew an annual 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2019, unchanged from the fourth quarter and beating forecasts for 6.3 percent.

Retail sales climbed 8.7 percent year-on-year in March - beating expectations for an increase of 8.4 percent and up from 8.2 percent in February.

Fixed asset investment rose 6.3 percent in the first quarter, in line with expectations and up from 6.1 percent in the previous quarter.

Japanese shares rose for a fifth straight session as the yen held largely flat and Chinese GDP data topped forecasts.

Closer to home, a government report showed that Japanese exports fell an annual 2.4 percent in March, beating expectations for a decline of 2.6 percent following the 1.2 percent drop in the previous month.

The Nikkei 225 Index rose 56.31 points or 0.3 percent to 22,277.97, while the broader Topix closed 0.3 percent higher at 1,630.68.

China-related Komatsu gained 1.9 percent, and exporters Honda Motor and Toyota climbed 1-2 percent. In the tech sector, chip equipment maker Advantest surged up 5.5 percent.

On the other hand, Nippon Paint Holdings lost 3.6 percent after the paint company made a A$3.8 billion acquisition proposal for Australian paint and homeware company DuluxGroup.

Australian markets ended modestly lower as mining giant BHP slashed its full-year iron ore production guidance. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 21 points or 0.3 percent to 6,256.40, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 22 points or 0.4 percent at 6,350.30.

BHP tumbled 2.7 percent as it reported declines in petroleum, iron ore, and metallurgical coal production during the third quarter. Rio Tinto slumped 4.7 and smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group plunged 8.3 percent after iron ore prices weakened overnight.

DuluxGroup soared 27 percent after its board unanimously backed the takeover bid from Nippon Paint. Telstra rallied 2.1 percent on a brokerage upgrade.

Gold miners Newcrest and Evolution dropped 1-2 percent after gold prices fell more than 1 percent overnight.

The big four banks rose between 0.8 percent and 1.5 percent. Oil & gas producer Santos gained 0.6 percent after it posted record first quarter production.

Seoul stocks paused for breath after rising for 13 consecutive sessions. The benchmark Kospi edged down 2.74 points or 0.1 percent to 2,245.89.

Asiana Airlines slumped 15.7 percent on profit taking after recent strong gains on news that its parent will sell shares in the country's No. 2 air carrier.

Meanwhile, automakers surged, with Hyundai Motor, Kia Motor and Hyundai Mobis adding 1-2 percent.

New Zealand shares hit a new record higher, with retirement village operators rallying after the government said it would not proceed with a proposal for a capital gains tax.

Summerset Group Holdings jumped 3.9 percent and Metlifecare advanced 3.8 percent, while the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index climbed 73.85 points or 0.8 percent to 9,982.24.

Overnight, U.S. stocks fluctuated before finishing modestly higher after a string of mostly positive earnings and mixed economic data.

The Dow and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite both rose around 0.3 percent to end at their best closing levels in over six months, while the S&P 500 inched up marginally.

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