Asian Stocks End Mixed; China Data Eyed With Wires

Asian shares ended mixed on Thursday, paring initial gains as investors cashed in their chips following recent rallies with demand also capped by caution ahead of Chinese data on Friday.

Investors will be watching out for a slew of economic data from China including fourth-quarter growth numbers, fixed asset investment, industrial output & retail sales for a check on the health of Asia's largest economy.

The FTSE CNBC Asia 100 index inched up 0.05 percent.

Japan's share average reversed losses to close up on Thursday after a media report quoted Japan's economic minister as saying his remark on the yen early this week was misinterpreted, lifting exporters' shares before the closing bell.

The benchmark index ended up 0.1 percent at 10,609.64 after trading as low as 10,432.97, while the broader Topix rose 0.3 percent to 890.46.

Exporters pared earlier losses as Canon edged up 0.1 percent after losing 0.8 percent, Nikon ended down 0.3 percent and Fanuc rallying 1.5 percent after trading down 0.6 percent.

A Market Renaissance in Japan?
A Market Renaissance in Japan?

Sharp climbed 7.3 percent after the Nikkei newspaper reported that the struggling company was in the final stages of talks with Lenovo on a tie-up in television operations in China.

Suppliers to Boeing extended losses after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said on Wednesday it would temporarily ground the new 787 jet.

GS Yuasa, which makes the batteries, dropped 5 percent while Fuji Heavy Industries eased 1.2 percent.

Ikyu Corp, which runs online booking services for luxury hotels, soared 10 percent after the Nikkei reported that it will likely post an increase of 50 percent in parent-only pretax profit for the fiscal year ending March 31.

Seoul shares edged down on Thursday with market heavyweight Samsung Electronics losing ground for the third straight session, as investors held off aggressive bets before most local fourth-quarter corporate earnings are announced.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ended down 0.1 percent at 1,974.2 points.

Samsung Electronics fell 1.5 percent while chip-maker SK Hynix declined 1.1 percent.

2013's Hidden Economic Recovery
2013's Hidden Economic Recovery

Shares in local financial firms rose after strong U.S. bank earnings. Shinhan Financial Group rose 1 percent, while Hanwha Life Insurance gained 1.3 percent and Daewoo Securities added 1.3 percent.

Australian shares rallied 0.4 percent to a 20-month high, buoyed by financial stocks and retailers as data showing an unexpected fall in Australian employment in December increased the chances of a further interest rate cut.

The advanced 26.8 points to 4,765.3.

Financials lead the index higher, with QBE Insurance up 2.3 percent and insurer and bank Suncorp up 1.8 percent. Big banks were firmer, headed by Australia New Zealand Banking with a 0.8 percent gain

Retailers also improved on the hopes for a boost to economic activity, with furniture and electrical goods store Harvey Norman jumping 2.6 percent. Supermarket giants Wesfarmers and Woolworths jumped 1.4 percent and 1 percent respectively.

Iron ore miner BHP Billiton rose 0.3 percent, but rival Rio Tinto bucked the trend, dropping 1.5 percent. Iluka Resources surged 3.7 percent after announcing fresh steps to cut costs.

Molopo Energy soared 7.4 percent. The oil and gas exploration and production company announced a new CEO and said details of a strategic review will be announced before the first quarter of 2013.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index closed up 0.6 percent to 4,196.8 points.

Invest in China Through Hong Kong: Expert
Invest in China Through Hong Kong: Expert

Mainland Chinese shares retreated further from a 7-1/2-month high struck two days earlier, weighing on Hong Kong markets, with growth-sensitive counters leading the slide ahead of a slew of major Chinese economic data due on Friday.

The Hang Seng Index closed down 0.1 percent at 23,339.8 after earlier testing chart resistance at 19-1/2 month highs at about 23,500. This level has stymied index gains for more than two weeks.

The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong fell 0.4 percent. The lost 1.1 percent, while the CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen A-shares shed 0.9 percent.

Shanghai volume on Thursday was the weakest since January 7, while turnover in Hong Kong only crawled to the highest in a week because of a $560 million new share placement for Chinese developer Evergrande.

Evergrande tumbled 7.1 percent to HK$4.32, slightly below the HK$4.35 level at which the Chinese developer priced one billion new shares on Thursday, which was a 6.5 percent discount to its Wednesday's close.

Thursday's losses took Evergrande to its lowest close since December 31, hurting most of its Chinese property sector rivals listed in Hong Kong. China Resources Land shed 1.7 percent to its lowest close this year.

China Life Insurance tumbled 2.4 percent in Hong Kong and 3 percent in Shanghai despite posting a 40 percent year on year increase in premium income in December, lifting growth to 1 percent for 2012.

Ping An Insurance, its biggest rival, is currently trading in Hong Kong at a 32 percent discount.

In a sign the upcoming earnings season, that picks up after the Chinese New Year in February, could stall the bright start to the year, Brightoil Petroleum slumped 11.2 percent to its lowest since November 30 after it warned of a loss in second-half earnings.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 0.4 percent lower while Malaysia's KLCI Composite Index ended down 0.1 percent.

In India, the BSE Index finished 0.7 percent higher while the 50-share NSE Index ended up 0.6 percent.

Coming Up:

FRIDAY: China's Q4 GDP, fixed asset investment, industrial output & retail sales.