Asia Markets

Asian shares fall on China, Ukraine worries; Tokyo drops 3.3%


Asian equity markets sold off sharply across the board on Friday, as concerns over the sustainability of China's economic growth and ongoing instability in Ukraine spurred a flight-to-safety.

A stronger yen exacerbated declines for Japanese shares, with the Nikkei index posting one of its largest single-day percentage declines of the year.

(Read more: Fresh worries over China prompt slew of downgrades)

China, the world's second-largest economy, released weaker-than-expected February retail sales and industrial output figures on Thursday, fanning worries about the health of its economy.

A pending referendum in Crimea on Sunday also sent chills throughout global financial markets.

As a result, U.S. stocks plunged on Thursday; the Nasdaq was the biggest loser, falling 1.5 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.4 percent, while the S&P 500 shed 1.2 percent.

Tokyo plunges 3.3%

Japanese shares posted the biggest declines in Asia, with the Nikkei closing down nearly 500 points at a one-month low.

A stronger yen sent exporter stocks lower, while a double whammy of soft Chinese data and geopolitical tensions in Europe also weighed on the index.

Electronics companies Sharp and Sony slumped 3.8 and 4.2 percent each, while automakers Toyota Motor and Suzuki Motor ended trade lower by 3 and 4 percent, respectively.

Losing nearly 4 percent for the day, Toshiba was in the news for filing a lawsuit against South Korea's SK Hynix for damages over a suspected leak of its flagship NAND flash memory chip technology.

Weak data caused by China's reforms: JP Morgan

Shanghai falls 0.7%

Mainland shares put up a sluggish performance on Friday, as news of China's central bank halting certain types of mobile payments pulled down online payment related companies.

Shares of CITIC Bank slumped over 8 percent, after the People's Bank of China halted online credit card use. The bank operates virtual credit cards in cooperation with Tencent Holdings and ecommerce firm Alibaba Group.

Major banks were also in the red, with Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China losing more than 0.4 percent on Friday.

Property stocks Vanke and Poly Real Estate slumped 2.4 and 1.7 percent each.

(Read more: Is China's slowdown actually good for the world?)

Sydney skids 1.5%

Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 index fell to a one-month low of 5,329 on Friday, on the back of weakness in copper stocks at the mercy of falling copper prices.

Oz Minerals dropped 5.3 percent while PanAust slid 2.5 percent.

China economy key to commodity stock rebound

Mining stocks also declined despite iron ore prices rebounding overnight. Rio Tinto fell 2.5 percent while BHP Billiton dropped 2 percent.

Malcolm Wood, Head of Investment Strategy at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, told CNBC's Cash Flow, "Commodity prices and weaker-than-expected Chinese data are dominating the day at this point in time. I think the data flow over the next couple of months is very important. If we see any pick up in activity, then i think we'll see a more genuine rebound to the stock and iron ore prices."

Air carrier Qantas fell 1 percent, as the company's chief executive officer Alan Joyce spoke at a senate inquiry early Friday, about the airline's decision to cut jobs last month.

Leighton Holdings continued to head south, falling 2.5 percent after Thursday's management shake-up.

Seoul down 0.8%

South Korea's benchmark Kospi index widened losses to end at a five-week-low of 1,919 on Friday.

Blue-chip stocks weighed on the bourse all day. Samsung Electronics entered a two-day losing streak with a 1.2 percent drop.

Steel maker Posco shed 1 percent. Its new chief executive Kwon Oh-joon said at an annual meeting of shareholders early Friday, that the steel maker will shy away from expanding manufacturing capacity for the time being and raise cash by selling non-core assets and by listing some affiliates.

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Limiting declines for the battered bourse was SK Telecom which held gains above 2.4 percent.

SK Hynix eased losses to shed 0.3 percent, on news that Toshiba would be seeking damages from it.

Singapore's Temasek makes bid for Olam

Singapore sheds 0.5%

Singapore's Straits Times index saw downbeat trade along with its regional peers.

Attention was on commodity trading firm Olam, which received an offer from Singapore's state investor Temasek Holdings on Friday, to buy all of the shares from its minority shareholders for S$2.23 per share.

Shares of Olam rallied over 11 percent on late Friday.

Mumbai 0.1% higher

Indian shares traded lower on Friday but managed to trim losses to finish in the green.

The country released its February wholesale price index (WPI), which eased to a nine-month low of 4.68 percent, helped mainly by moderating food prices, according to government data on late Friday.

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