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Asian stocks cautious before China data

Asian equity markets were mixed on Friday as caution ahead of Chinese growth data next week offset gains from Wall Street's record-breaking rally overnight.

Japan's Nikkei and Australia's S&P ASX 200 pared gains from their respective multi-week highs. Amid laggards, South Korea's Kospi index closed below 1,870 points and the Shanghai Composite tumbled 1.6 percent.

For the week, Australia's benchmark was Asia's outperformer with a 2.7 percent gain while the Kospi came in second with 2 percent gains each.

"Investor sentiment has shifted from fears of when the Fed will taper to further stimulus by the Fed, and an expectation that China's Premier Li Keqiang will tackle this slowdown with structural changes," said Kelly Teoh, market strategist at IG in a morning note.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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What's Moving Markets

On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 surged to fresh record highs as fears of an early withdrawal of U.S. monetary stimulus eased following this week's dovish comments from the Federal Reserve.

Global investors will be closely watching China on Monday, when the world's second biggest economy is due to release its keenly-awaited growth figures for the second quarter after a slew of recent disappointing trade and manufacturing figures.

(Vote Now: Will China Experience a 'Hard Landing' in 2013?)

"We see no hard landing but rather steady growth. Our 7.7 percent GDP forecast is based on a stronger consumption component, making up for the slowdown in investment," wrote Steve Wang, research director, chief China economist at Reorient Markets in a note.

Nikkei Adds 0.2%

Japan's benchmark index pared gains after crossing the 14,555 mark to hit a new six-week high in early trade as the yen resumed its pace of declines to breach the 99-handle against the U.S dollar.

Exporters reversed earlier losses with glass maker Nippon Sheet Glass leading gains by nearly 10 percent and air conditioner maker Dainippon Screen up 5.7 percent.

Shares of Fast Retailing, one of the top-weighted stocks on the Nikkei, tanked 6 percent after it's third-quarter earnings highlighted weakness in its home market and disappointed investors. For the March-to-May period, the operator of the Uniqlo brand said net profit rose 56 percent.

Sydney Up 0.2%

Australia's resource-heavy index closed below 5,000 points after crossing those levels to hit a seven-week peak, supported by a rise in metal prices.

Gold miners Perseus Mining surged 13.3 percent and Newcrest Mining rose 9 percent as gold heads for its biggest weekly gain in nearly two years.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar fell below the $0.92 handle against the greenback after rising to a two-week high of $0.9305 in the previous session.

Shanghai 1.6% Lower

China's benchmark index retreated from the previous day's three-week high as investors fretted over upcoming second-quarter GDP figures.

A Reuters poll predicts a 7.5 percent rise on a yearly basis, which would be slowest pace of growth (year-on-year) since the third quarter of last year. But on Friday, China's finance minister scaled down expectations by predicting only a 7 percent rise this year.

(Read More: China Could 'Shock' Markets With Big GDP Miss)

Banks dragged on the index with mid-sized lenders China Merchants Bank and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank lower by 4 percent each.

Kospi Below 1,870

A stronger currency weighed on South Korea's benchmark index fell as the won traded near a one-month high against the greenback.

That led to a sell-off in exporter stocks. Automakers Hyundai Motor lost nearly 6 percent, Kia Motors declined 4.7 percent and Ssangyong Motor fell 1.9 percent.

By CNBC.com's Nyshka Chandran. Follow her on Twitter @NyshkaCNBC