Asia Markets

Asia stocks mixed on China data; Indonesia soars on election optimism


Asian equities ended mixed on Thursday following weak trade data from China and minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest meeting.

The mainland's June trade report came in well below expectations. Exports rose 7.2 percent on year, missing estimates for a 10.6 percent increase. Imports rose 5.5 percent, against expectations for a 5.8 percent increase, leaving the country with a $31.6 billion trade surplus.

"Is the glass half empty or half full? That looks to be the case for China's trade data for June. There's a bit of optimism with China's customs office expecting exports growth to accelerate in the third quarter. There is also some expectation that the government will have to do more to jumpstart the recovery with further stimulus measures to meet its 7.5% growth target," said Ryan Huang, market strategist at IG in a note.

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Meanwhile, minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's June meeting pointed to the likely end of the asset-buying program in October.

Emerging markets in focus

Indonesia's Jakarta Composite rallied 1.5 percent to a one-year high while the rupiah rose to a more than two-month high on expectations that presidential candidate Joko Widowo will win Wednesday's election.

Read MoreRupiah gets election boost – but will it last?

India's Nifty and Sensex eased 0.5 percent each after finance minister Arun Jaitley projected to narrow the fiscal deficit to 3.6 percent of GDP in the 2015/16 financial year.

Read MoreIndiabudget: Finance minister aims for 7-8% growth

Nikkei 0.5% lower

Japan's benchmark Nikkei index finished at a new one-and-a-half-week low, extending losses into a fourth straight session on dismal economic data. May machinery orders slumped 14.3 percent on year against expectations for a 9.5 percent gain, leading officials to cut their outlook on orders.

Industrial exporters extended losses with 2 percent declines in Mitsubishi Heavy, Kawasaki Heavy and Komatsu.

Education services provider Benesse lost 5 percent after announcing that its customer database had been leaked.

Shanghai flat

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite posted its second consecutive one-and-a-half-week low.

Automakers were mixed after passenger vehicle sales rose 11.5 percent in June from a year ago, compared to May's 13.9 percent rise. SAIC Motor dropped 0.7 percent while Dongfeng Aut rose nearly 1 percent.

Read MoreTrucks fall back as China auto market races ahead

Bank of China fell over 1 percent in Hong Kong after state broadcaster CCTV accused the lender of money laundering.

Fed is getting back to normality: Strategist

ASX ticks up 0.3%

Australian shares moved off the previous session's one-week low while the Australian dollar retreated after touching a one-week high of $0.9453 per dollar on the back of a mixed employment report. The economy added 15,900 jobs in June, much better than the 12,000 expected but the unemployment rate rose to 6 percent from 5.8 percent previously.

Syrah Resources surged 28 percent after the Australian Financial Review reported that it could be a possible takeover target for Glencore.

Compliance firm SAI Global shed 0.4 percent on reports of a potential joint bid from investment company Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) and Pacific Equity Partners (PEP).

Read MoreWhy 2014's hottest currency won't lose its shine

Kospi 0.1% higher

South Korean shares climbed above Wednesday's one-week trough after the Bank of Korea left interest rates steady at 2.5 percent for the 14 straight month, as expected.

A 2 percent gain in blue-chip Hyundai Motor and a 1.5 percent rise in LG Chem helped to keep the benchmark Kospi in positive territory.