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Tokyo leads gains in mixed Asian trade; China data in focus

Asian markets traded mixed on Thursday, with Tokyo continuing to outperform on speculations of a delayed sales tax hike and snap elections.

China released a set of monthly indicators for October in the afternoon session. Industrial production rose 7.7 percent on year, below expectations for an 8 percent increase in a Reuters poll. Retail sales rose 11.5 percent on year, slightly below expectations for an 11.6 percent rise. Fixed asset investment for the January-October period increased 15.9 percent, in line with expectations.

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Overnight, U.S. stocks oscillated near record highs as investors mulled the slowdown in Europe and earnings from Macy's and other retailers. The Dow Jones Industrial Average recovered from an initial 78-point loss to close little changed. The S&P 500 shed nearly 0.1 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 0.3 percent.

Brent crude was also in focus for trading around $80 a barrel on Thursday, near its lowest since 2010, after OPEC said demand for its oil would fall next year, while Saudi Arabia's remained silent about a possible cut in production.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Tokyo gains 1.1%

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index extended gains after the lunch break to finish near a seven-year high of 17,443 attained on Wednesday, as investors lapped up a report that said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to have decided to call an early election.

Also lifting sentiment was a rise in September's core machinery orders, a leading indicator of capital spending. Core machinery orders rose 2.9 percent on month, above expectations for a 1.9 percent decline in a Reuters poll but slower than August's 4.7 percent increase. Year-on-year, machinery orders rose 7.3 percent in September, above expectations for a 1.3 percent decline.

Honda announced late Thursday that it would recall another 170,000 vehicles globally to replace air bag inflators made by Takata. Shares of the carmaker traded 1 percent higher but Takata erased more than half of its initial 8 percent gain on the news.

Mainland shares mixed

China's Shanghai Composite index closed down 0.3 percent after Thursday's data deluge showed the world's second largest economy stuck in a soft patch.

"I think it's quite clear that growth is declining. October numbers are below September's data and economy is still slowing down," Shen Jian Guang, Greater China chief economist at Mizuho Securities Asia, told CNBC's "Capital Connection."

"The government's next step is to try to revive the housing market because that's the main source of weakening in the economy," he added.

Hong Kong equities rebounded to trade 0.2 percent higher.

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Sydney drops 0.4%

Australia's key S&P ASX 200 index ended in the red for the fourth straight session as bearish commodity prices continue to weigh on the resource-dependent bourse. Earlier in the morning, the bourse hit a two-week low of 5,433.

Westpac Bank is in the spotlight after its chief executive officer Gail Kelly announced a surprise retirement. She will be replaced by Brian Hartzer, the head of the group's Australian franchise. Shares of the lender traded 1.1 percent lower.

"I wouldn't read too much into the share price movements today. There's disappointment that Gail was going, [it was] expected but we thought it would be another 12 months. But when markets digested the news and move forward, share price will come back," David Ellis, head of Australian Banking Research at Morningstar Australasia, told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia."

Among losers, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank lost 0.7 percent, respectively. Atlas Iron and BC Iron ended down 2.4 and 2 percent respectively.

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Seoul falls 0.4%

South Korean shares snapped a five-day winning streak on Thursday, as blue-chip majors traded mixed. Hyundai Motor rose 0.8 percent while Posco and Samsung Electronics finished 0.7 and 2.4 percent lower.

The key Kospi index started the day's trade an hour later due to the national college entrance exams.

Meanwhile, the won traded at 1,097 against the greenback. Earlier, the central bank announced it was keeping interest rates steady, in line with market expectations, as it monitors the effects of its two rate cuts this year as well as policy decisions in the U.S. and Japan.