Asia Ends Lower on Weak China Data
Disappointing Chinese gross domestic product (GDP) data led major Asian benchmarks lower on Monday, as investors fretted over slowing growth in the world's second largest economy.
Chinese GDP data showed a 7.7 percent growth for January to March, below the expected 8 percent level and down from 7.9 percent in the previous quarter.
The Nikkei 225 closed nearly 1 percent down, while South Korea's Kospi initially sold off then edged back into the green closing 0.2 percent up. In Australia, the S&P ASX 200 also closed around 1 percent down, with investors particularly sensitive to the economic data from China, its largest trading partner.
"These growth and activity numbers seem quite disappointing in light of the very rapid loan growth reported last year... it has proved a sluggish start to the year and this suggests that the Chinese economy is less dynamic and reaching speed limits," said Greg Gibbs, senior forex strategist at RBS.
"With the government moving towards containing loan growth and control property speculation it suggests there are significant downside risks for the Chinese economy," he added.
Chinese fixed asset investment data also disappointed, posting 20.9 percent growth for January to March 2013, below the 21.3 percent, forecast in a Reuters poll.
Industrial output was also weaker than expected, showing a 8.9 percent increase for March, year on year, well below expectations of a 10 percent rise.
(Read More: Can China Turn 'Economy on Steroids' to Real Growth?)
Aussie Miners Suffer
A sharp sell-off in gold miners and resources firms led Australia's benchmark stock index lower as concerns over slowing growth in China damaged sentiment.
A slide in gold prices below the psychological $1,500 level, sparked falls across gold miners. Alacer Gold closed 17 percent down, while Medusa Mining slumped 16 percent.
(Read More: Miners Get Crushed as Gold Extends Fall Below $1,500)
In South Korea, there was some caution amid tension in North Korea as Pyongyang geared up to celebrate the birthday of late founder Kim Il-Sung with an expected missile launch.
Hanil Engineering & Construction led the losses on the benchmark, plummeting by near 60 percent over the course of the trading day.
Equipment manufacturer Mando Corporation also declined by 15 percent after it announced a plan to support its loss-making sister company Halla Engineering & Construction, Reuters reported.
The Japanese yen failed to surpass the psychological level of 100 to the dollar last week and has strengthened to around 98.06, after the U.S. government issued a report warning both Japan and China against competitive devaluation of their currencies.
(Read More: US Warns Japan Not to Hold Down the Yen)
"I think this [the rebound in the yen] is just a short-term development. The fact of the matter is the Bank of Japan is pursuing a shock and awe policy to weaken the yen and we will see a lot of that money flow abroad and that will continue to weaken the yen," Todd Elmer, currency strategist at Citi, told CNBC.
Investors in Asia may also be starting to take a more cautious approach ahead of a major earnings week in the U.S., with 74 S&P 500 companies set to report their results, including Goldman Sachs and Google.
Disappointing U.S. retail sales data on Friday also weighed on sentiment in Asia, following a 0.4 percent decline for March.