Mainland Chinese shares retreated further from a 7-1/2-month high struck two days earlier, weighing on Hong Kong markets, with growth-sensitive counters leading the slide ahead of a slew of major Chinese economic data due on Friday.
The Hang Seng Index closed down 0.1 percent at 23,339.8 after earlier testing chart resistance at 19-1/2 month highs at about 23,500. This level has stymied index gains for more than two weeks.
The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong fell 0.4 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.1 percent, while the CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen A-shares shed 0.9 percent.
Shanghai volume on Thursday was the weakest since January 7, while turnover in Hong Kong only crawled to the highest in a week because of a $560 million new share placement for Chinese developer Evergrande.
Evergrande tumbled 7.1 percent to HK$4.32, slightly below the HK$4.35 level at which the Chinese developer priced one billion new shares on Thursday, which was a 6.5 percent discount to its Wednesday's close.
Thursday's losses took Evergrande to its lowest close since December 31, hurting most of its Chinese property sector rivals listed in Hong Kong. China Resources Land shed 1.7 percent to its lowest close this year.
China Life Insurance tumbled 2.4 percent in Hong Kong and 3 percent in Shanghai despite posting a 40 percent year on year increase in premium income in December, lifting growth to 1 percent for 2012.
Ping An Insurance, its biggest rival, is currently trading in Hong Kong at a 32 percent discount.
In a sign the upcoming earnings season, that picks up after the Chinese New Year in February, could stall the bright start to the year, Brightoil Petroleum slumped 11.2 percent to its lowest since November 30 after it warned of a loss in second-half earnings.
In Southeast Asia, Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 0.4 percent lower while Malaysia's KLCI Composite Index ended down 0.1 percent.
In India, the BSE Index finished 0.7 percent higher while the 50-share NSE Index ended up 0.6 percent.
FRIDAY: China's Q4 GDP, fixed asset investment, industrial output & retail sales.