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Asian stocks plunge on China, Japan data; China shares at 5-year low

Asian shares were a lackluster sight on Monday, with major indexes across the region registering steep declines. Chinese shares in particular suffered a hefty loss of nearly 3 percent.

Investors switched to 'risk-off' mode following disappointing Chinese export data over the weekend. The latest Japanese gross domestic product (GDP) figures further dented trading sentiment across the region.

Commenting on Monday's sluggish tone in Asian equities, Kingsley Jones, Founder and CIO of Jevons Global, told CNBC's Cash Flow, "I think a lot of that (weakness) has to do with the Chinese data released over the weekend. Those weak export numbers got investors a little risk off now. Not forgetting, in the background, there's the brewing situation in Ukraine."

(Read more: China February exports tumble amid global uncertainty)

Focus was also on the continued search for a missing Malaysia Airlines flight, which entered its third day on Monday.

China's exports tumbled 18.1 percent while imports rose 10.1 percent from a year earlier, producing a trade deficit of $23 billion for the month of February, data released on Saturday showed.

That compared with market expectations in a Reuters poll of a rise of 6.8 percent in exports, an 8 percent rise in imports and a trade surplus of $14.5 billion.

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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Wall Street finished mixed at the end of last week. The blue-chip Dow rose 0.2 percent on Friday, while the S&P 500 crept up nearly 0.1 percent, after climbing to an intraday record of 1,883.57. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 0.4 percent.

Friday's closely-watched U.S. nonfarm payrolls report beat expectations to show the U.S. economy adding 175,000 jobs in February, compared with 113,000 in January. Economists had expected the addition of 150,000 new jobs.

(Read more: Heating up: Job creation accelerates in February)

Shanghai tanks 2.9%

Mainland shares plunged below the 2,000 level for the first time since 21 January, on Monday as investors bailed out of markets after below-view trade data suggested that the economy may be losing steam. Meanwhile, China's CSI300 share index sank to a five-year closing low on Monday.

Banking stocks were among the biggest losers; Minsheng Bank and Hua Xia Bank plunged over 3.5 percent while Merchants Bank slumped 2 percent.

Gold stocks continued to trade weak; Shandong Gold slumped 7 percent while Zhongjin Gold lost 4.4 percent.

Jiangxi Copper fell 5.8 percent as copper prices took a hit.

(Read more: IBM factory strike shows shifting China labor landscape)

Sinopec could be widely watched by investors as the oil refiner was reported to be in the process of opening up its fuel marketing business to outside investors. Shares of Sinopec dropped 4.2 percent.

Tokyo skids 1%

Japanese shares retreated from a five-week high on Monday to finish 1 percent lower, snapping a three-session winning streak.

Investors were reacting to latest economic data, which saw the Asian giant logging a record deficit of 1.589 trillion yen ($15.4 billion) in January, against estimates of a 1.4 trillion yen deficit.

Japan's economy grew 0.7 percent on-year in the fourth quarter of 2013, revised down from a preliminary reading of 1 percent due to a slowdown in capital spending and private consumption.

Among heavyweights, Softbank slipped 0.8 percent on Monday, while Fast Retailing fell nearly 2 percent.

Exporter stocks saw a downfall as the yen strengthened. Toyota Motor dropped 1.2 percent while Honda Motor fell 2 percent.

(Read more: Is the Bank of Japan easing at its limits?)

Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) commenced a two-day policy meeting on Monday.

Sydney falls 0.9%

Australia's key S&P ASX 200 index slipped from a five-and-a-half-year closing high on Monday, as China's below-view trade data over the weekend took a hit on miners.

Copper prices near a seven-month low sent resource stocks tumbling. Atlas Iron sank over 10 percent while Fortescue Metals suffered a beating with a hefty loss of 9.4 percent. Rio Tinto and Whitehaven Coal shed over 5 percent each.

Leighton Holdings stood out with a nearly 12 percent gain, after Germany's Hochtief said it is seeking to boost its majority stake to 74 percent in Leighton.

Wesfarmers also bucked the downward trend with a 0.4 percent gain, on news that it planned to sell its insurance broking business via an initial public offering worth around $1.02 billion.

(Read more: Copper's 'fall out of bed' underscores China woes)

Seoul drops 1%

South Korean shares dropped to a one-week low on Monday, as investors sought flight-to-safety on worse-than-expected data from China.

"The local index has struggled to gain firm trading directions even with positive economic indicators - (this week's) mixed data will likely result in scrambled trade for investors. The China data was a warning for investors to keep vigilant," Seo Dong-pil, a strategist at IBK Securities told Reuters.

Blue-chip heavyweights Posco and Samsung Electronics slipped 1.4 and 2 percent each.

Lotte Chemical dropped 5.7 percent, on brokerage reports that the company would post dismal earnings in the first-quarter of 2014.

Kuala Lumpur sheds 0.5%

Malaysian stocks were watched on Monday as attention remained on the news of missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370, which lost contact with air traffic since Saturday morning.

Shares of the air carrier eased to a 4 percent drop on late Monday. It saw a steep plunge of 10 percent earlier in the day. Reuters reported that the disappearance of the aircraft could dent the national carrier's plan to return to profit by end-2014.

— Follow us on Twitter: @CNBCWorld

Symbol
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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NCM
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9984.T
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WES
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688
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36
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7267.T
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547
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HOT
---
362
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