FED MINUTES: Investors were also still digesting the minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's last meeting, which showed the majority of Fed policymakers believe the U.S. economy is improving enough for the central bank to start raising interest rates sooner than previously thought. The debate on when the Fed should begin hiking rates, which have been near zero since 2008, has intensified in recent months as the Fed winds down its other economic stimulus.
ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.9 percent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.1 percent. South Korea's Kospi sank 1.4 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.7 percent. China's Shanghai Composite dropped 0.4 percent. Higher interest rates in the U.S. could be a boost for countries such as Japan where giant exporters have much to gain from a strong dollar. But in South Korea, investors were jittery it could prompt foreign investors to sell their stockholdings.
DOLLAR RISE: Expectations of an end to the Fed's easy monetary policy pushed the dollar to 103.83 yen from 103.71 yen. The euro, however, reversed its earlier fall, appreciating to $1.3265 from $1.3260 late Wednesday.
ANALYST VIEW: "It seems consensus that the FOMC minutes were modestly hawkish," said Chris Weston, a chief market strategist at IG, referring to the Fed minutes. He noted that while the minutes helped push up the dollar, they were not weighing on U.S. stock markets, possibly because they are a sign of confidence in future growth.
YELLEN'S SPEECH: On Friday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen will give a speech at an annual conference of central bankers and other policymakers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It will be closely watched by markets for clues to her thinking on the timing of interest rate hikes.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude for October delivery was down 66 cents to $92.79 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.