Asia Markets

Sydney, Seoul shares lead Asia lower after China PMI disappoints

Tang See Kit | News Assistant, CNBC Asia-Pacific

Asian stocks ended lower on Thursday after a preliminary reading of Chinese manufacturing activity fell to a six-month low, suggesting a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.

HSBC's Flash Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for January came in at 49.6, down from last month's final reading of 50.5.

"There are probably some New Year distortions in here as it isright between the holidays, but it does suggest not all is well inChina's economy. I wouldn't get my hopes up for a big, strongpick-up right after Chinese New Year. Interest rates are rising inChina, we know the government is pursuing aggressive reforms; astrong pick-up is not in the cards for China," said FredericNeumann, MD & Co-Head of Asian Economics Research at .

Shanghai down 0.5%

VIDEO3:2503:25
Don't get your hopes up for a China growth pickup: HSBC

China's benchmark index fell after hitting a near two-week high in the previous session on the back of HSBC's disappointing PMI data. Larger losses were capped after the People's Bank of China injected its biggest weekly funding since February 2013 into interbank markets.

Investors also digested data that showed fiscal revenues rose an annual 10 percent in 2013.

fell 0.9 percent following reports that the Shanxi provincial government may help bail out investors in an investment product that was marketed by the lender.

The rest of the banking sector also declined despite data showing higher annual loan growth in January. and skidded over 1 percent.

In Hong Kong, the benchmark Index fell 1.5 percent to a more than one-week low.

Nikkei slips 0.8%

Japan's benchmark index reversed gains to close in negative territory after hitting a two-week high of 15,958 earlier in the session.

(Read more: Is the Japan story getting threadbare?)

Investors dismissed a Reuters poll that indicated business sentiment was set to improve for a third consecutive month in January, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's pledge to cut corporate taxes at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday also failed to lift sentiment.

Textile company Unitika was one of the biggest losers, down over 4 percent. But offsetting the losses, Japan Aviation Electronics surged 14 percent after raising its annual earnings forecast for the second time this fiscal year.

VIDEO2:4602:46
PWC: China business activity set for record year

Australia loses 1%

Australia's benchmark index fell to a one-week low following China's disappointing data, while the briefly fell below 88 U.S. cents to near Monday's three-and-a-half year low of $0.8756.

Banks and resource stocks led the declines. , and fell over 1 percent each while BHP Billiton lost 1.5 percent on the back of lower copper prices.

Gold miners Evolution Mining and tumbled 7 and 5 percent respectively, after gold prices hit a two-week low.

Whitehaven Coal fell 1.8 percent after announcing that it expects a drop in coal prices this quarter.

(Read more: Will Australia's binge drinking clampdown quell industry?)

Kospi falls 1.2%

South Korean shares fell as caution over corporate earnings overshadowed optimism from a weaker currency and upbeat economic data.

Samsung lost 2 percent ahead of releasing earnings on Friday while Hyundai Motor also fell 2 percent after its quarterly revenue fell for the first time in three years. rose 0.3 percent ahead of posting results on Friday.

Meanwhile, the hit its weakest level in more than two months while advanced fourth quarter gross domestic product (GDP) came in line with expectations.

Emerging markets mixed

Thai shares gained 0.6 percent following a weaker which stood at a one-week high of 32.9 against the dollar. Indian stocks were flat one day after closing at record highs.

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By CNBC.com's Tang See Kit.