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Asian shares turned mixed after China, Japan data

Asian equity markets traded mixed on Thursday, as traders reacted to key economic data from Asia's two biggest economies. Declining commodity prices also weighed on resource-heavy bourses in the region.

In Japan, exports rose 9.6 percent on an annual basis, data from the Ministry of Finance showed early Thursday, above the 4.5 percent rise forecast from Reuters, and following a 6.9 percent rise in September. Imports, meanwhile, rose 2.7 percent from the year-ago period, below expectations of a 3.4 percent rise and after rising 6.2 percent in September.

This brought the trade deficit to 710 billion yen, better than expectations of a 1.05 trillion yen deficit.

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China's factory activity stalled in November as output shrank for the first time in six months, a private survey showed on Thursday. The HSBC flash purchasing managers' index (PMI) for November clocked in at the breakeven level of 50, which separates expansion from contraction, compared to a Reuters estimate for 50.3 and following the 50.4 final reading in October.

Wall Street overnight

U.S. stocks were little changed on Wednesday, with benchmarks at or near all-time highs, as Wall Street took minutes from the Federal Reserve's last policy meeting in stride.

U.S. Fed officials are worried that inflation may stay low "for quite some time" despite the central bank's multi-trillion dollar effort to jump start the economy, according to minutes from the October meeting released Wednesday. Open Market Committee members also discussed how they should go about raising interest rates, and expressed some worry over market volatility during the process.

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 rises 0.1%

Japan's Nikkei 225 edged up modestly on Thursday on the back of the weak yen, which traded at 118.5 against the greenback - its lowest levels since August 2007. Also helping sentiment was a positive trade report released early Thursday.

Exporter stocks got a fillip; Honda charged nearly 2 percent while Nikon and Canon advanced 2.5 and 1.1 percent each.

After tanking over 6 percent at the open on news that its defective air bag was linked to a woman's death in Florida in September, Takata reversed losses to close up 4.4 percent.

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Mainland shares flat

China's Shanghai Composite index rebounded into positive territory during the last hour of trade, shrugging off a worse-than-expected reading for the country's manufacturing activity in November. Meanwhile, Hong Kong shares broke a three-session losing streak to inch up 0.2 percent.

Both bourses continued to see subdued trading volumes on the fourth day of the Shanghai-Hong Kong stock connect. Despite the disappointing performance, some analysts remain upbeat about the "through train" program that will open China's A-share markets to foreign investment.

"[Despite] the subdued volumes, going forward we feel it's certainly a positive. The market's waiting on the sidelines shouldn't be taken as a blanket statement that this reform move will be negative," Joel Wells, Portfolio Manager at Alpine Funds, told CNBC's "The Rundown."

Read MoreEarly signs of a floor in China's property market

Sydney falls 1%

Australian stocks ended near a four-week low of 5,315 late Thursday, chalking up a fourth straight losing session, following fresh data that signaled a further loss of momentum in the mainland's economy. Thursday's losses put the S&P ASX 200 index nearly 0.7 percent lower year-to-date.

The persisting slump in iron ore prices continue to weigh on the resources sector. Fortescue Metals plummeted 3.7 percent, while Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton retreated nearly 3 percent each.

However, Atlas Iron made gains of 4.9 percent as investors picked up the battered mining stock.

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Seoul drops 0.5%

South Korean stocks were among the region's biggest loser on Thursday, as nagging concerns over a weakening yen and its impact on domestic firms weighed on the bourse. Disappointing data from China also ignited cautious sentiment.

Automakers led declines; Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors lost 2.6 and 0.7 percent, respectively, while index heavyweight Samsung Electronics traded 0.7 percent lower.

Meanwhile, the South Korean won hit a fresh 14-month low of 1,115 in its third straight day of losses late Thursday.