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Asia shares finish mostly lower after weak US lead; Ukraine in focus

Asian equities started the week mostly lower on Monday following declines on Wall Street last week and as escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia weighed on sentiment.

Developments in the Crimean peninsula were in the spotlight after pro-Russian separatists took control of the Ukrainian city of Slaviansk on Saturday, prompting a warning by Ukraine to disarm or face its military forces. In response, the United Nations Security Council kicked off an emergency meeting early on Monday to discuss the crisis.

"Naturally, this has caused many to feel the prospect of a Russian-backed civil war is closer, and the comment from the Polish prime minister over the weekend 'that over the past few hours we've witnessed the worst-case scenario playing out in Ukraine' has been noted," said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG in a note.

On Friday, U.S. stocks declined with the Dow and the S&P 500 down 1 percent each while the Nasdaq tallied its third weekly drop on the back of mixed first-quarter earnings. JPMorgan Chase posted results below expectations, Gap reported a drop in same-store sales, while Wells Fargo saw a better-than-projected rise in net profit.

Read MoreMarkets brace for China data deluge this week

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
---
ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
---
KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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ECB easing to come?

Comments from European Central Bank (ECB) officials were in focus. Speaking at a news conference on Saturday, Mario Draghi said that a stronger euro would prompt more monetary easing. Meanwhile, on Sunday, ECB executive board member Benoit Coeure said the central bank is ready to make asset purchases if low inflation continues.

Read MoreMarkets wrong to think euro crisis over: UBS chair

In reaction, the euro fell to $1.3853 in Asian trade, well off from March's two-and-a-half-year peak of $1.396.

Nikkei slips 0.3%

Japan's benchmark Nikkei ended at a fresh six-month low for a second straight session after bouncing between gains and losses throughout the session.

A stronger yen capped gains on the index. The currency traded around 101.5 per dollar, moving away from Friday's three-week high of 101.3.

Sharp slumped 9 percent on reports that it is mulling issuing new shares to beef up its capital.

Read MoreWill Japan's tax hike hobble the rest of Asia?

Fast Retailing tanked 3 percent on news that it is in talks to buy British retailer Cath Kidston. The owner of the Uniqlo label has reportedly hired UBS to explore possible options in a deal that could be worth over $400 million.

ASX down 1.3%

Australia's resource-heavy benchmark S&P ASX 200 index posted its biggest one-day slide in a month, ending at its lowest level in over two weeks.

The majority of gold miners fell despite prices of the yellow metal trading at a three-week high.Alacer Gold slumped nearly 4 percent while Evolution Mining eased over 1 percent.

Electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi fell 1 percent on reports that it could be the next takeover target following the $2.1 billion bid by South Africa's Woolworths for department store David Jones.

Shanghai flat

Mainland shares reversed losses to rise above the flatline thanks to a rally in automakers.

Chongqing Changan Auto surged by the daily limit of 10 percent after predicting strong profit growth for the first quarter of 2014. The news sparked a sector-wide gains with Jiangling Motors up 1.7 percent.

Read MoreChina easing? Time to stock up on these shares

China's largest brokerage, Citic Securities, lost 2 percent, after acquiring a stake in U.S. trading firm BTIG.

Meanwhile, investors also digested comments by Vice-Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao. Speaking on the sidelines of the IMF and World Bank meetings in Washington over the weekend, Zhu hit back at warnings that China faces the danger of a hard landing due to poor asset quality, saying that Beijing was already taking action to deal with financial risk.

Read MoreDrought threatens one of Asia's favorite crops

Kospi flat

South Korean shares were little changed throughout the session despite gains in blue-chips.

Index heavyweight Samsung Electronics gained 0.4 percent after the Korea Herald reported that the firm sold nearly 120,000 units of its newest smartphone, the Galaxy S5, in Korea last week.

Jakarta Composite gains 1%

Indonesian shares cheered news that the country's main opposition party, the PDI-P, has joined forces with the National Democrat Party, in a move that is expected to give the coalition enough votes to field a presidential candidate.

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