Asian stocks lower on profit-taking; Nikkei posts 9.3% monthly gain
Asian equity markets were mostly lower on the final trading day of the month as investors engaged in profit-taking in the absence of a lead from Wall Street.
Activity was subdued with U.S. markets shut on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday and as fund managers finalized their books for the month. Wall Street will resume trade on Friday but only for a half-day session.
(Read more: Take cover! Bond market 'hell' could be on the way)
|Index||Today's change||WTD change||MTD change||YTD change|
|S&P ASX 200||-0.30%||-0.30%||-1.76%||14.44%|
Nikkei 0.4% lower
Japan's Nikkei index took a breather after rallying to a six-year high in the previous session as the yen strengthened against major counterparts. Still, the index posted its best November performance since 2005, Reuters reported.
Earlier in the session, the currency hit a five-year low against the euro at 139.70 and a six-month low of 102.60 against the greenback but moved off those levels in afternoon trade. Panasonic and telecom firm KDDI were among the worst-performing stocks, down 2 percent each.
On the economic front, Japan's core consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.9 percent in October from a year earlier to a new five-year high, but that didn't seem to impress analysts.
(Read more: Time to kiss Japan deflation goodbye?)
"Overall, it is a low number. In the grand scheme of things, there's going to be a need for more action from the Bank of Japan to get to its 2 percent inflation target," said Chris Tedder, research analyst at FOREX.com.
China's benchmark index traded in a narrow 12-point range as investors were cautious ahead of Sunday's release of November's official manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI). A Reuters poll expects the index to ease to 51.1 from October's eighteen-month high of 51.4.
Defense shares gained after Beijing sent advanced fighter jets into its new air defense zone in the East China Sea on Thursday. Hafei Aviation and Aerospace Communication climbed over 3 percent each.
Shipping stocks also outperformed with COSCO Shipping and China Shipping Development 4 percent higher after the Baltic Dry Index surged 9.3 percent in its biggest single day rise in two-and-a-half months.
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Sydney down 0.3%
Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 reversed opening gains to hit a one-week low, on track to post its first monthly drop since June.
GrainCorp, the world's largest listed grains company, slumped 22 percent after the government said it will not allow U.S.-based Archer Daniel Midland's $3 billion takeover bid, saying doing so would have gone against national interests.
Global miner Rio Tinto rallied 2.5 percent after announcing that it aims to spend roughly $2 billion to increase annual iron-ore output.
Forge recovered 9.5 percent after collapsing over 80 percent in the previous session on reports that Australia New Zealand Banking could become the largest shareholder in the embattled firm.
(Read more: Aussie stocks could rally 10% next year)
South Korean shares ended just below the flatline following a choppy session despite positive economic data. Industrial output rose 1.8 percent in October, rebounding from a sharp decline in the previous month.
India rallies 1.2%
Indian shares extended the previous day's strong gains ahead of quarterly growth data, due around 8pm SIN/HK.
— By CNBC.com's Nyshka Chandran. Follow her on Twitter