Mainland indices down
China's benchmark Shanghai Composite index plunged 1.6 percent to settle at a one-and-a-half-week low, with insurance firms among the top losers for the day. China Pacific Insurance and China Life Insurance slumped more than 5 percent each, while Ping An Insurance shed 1.8 percent.
Train makers China CNR and CSR retreated nearly 8 percent, respectively, while Daqin Railway closed down 4.3 percent. Brokerages extended losses, with Haitong Securities and Citic Securities reversing course to slip nearly 2 percent each.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index slipped 0.4 percent.
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ASX up 0.4%
Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 index finished at a more than 4-month high, chalking up a seven-session winning streak, supported by hopes of a rate cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) next Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Australian dollar traded at $0.7766 to the greenback, having sunk to a multi-year low of $0.7720 overnight.
The banking sector traded broadly higher, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia rallying nearly 1 percent after hitting a record high in the previous session. National Australia Bank and ANZ Banking scaled up 0.4 and 0.2 percent, respectively, while Westpac pared gains to close down 0.5 percent.
The resources sector also saw a broad-based rally; Fortescue Metals was the top gainer, adding 5.8 percent, after leaping 10 percent on Thursday. Other big miners like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton also climbed 0.9 and 1.1 percent, while oil-related counters including Santos and Oil Search got a rare lift from overnight gains in crude prices, ending up 1.9 and 0.9 percent each.
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South Korean shares pared gains after briefly hitting a seven-and-a-half-week high at the open, as dismal corporate earnings curbed buoyant sentiment.
Posco skidded nearly 8 percent as a slowdown in its top consumer China kept steel prices weak, which weighed on the steelmaker's fourth-quarter operating profit. LG electronics - the world's number 2 TV maker - sagged 3 percent on the back of weaker-than-expected profit for the October-December period due to weak television earnings stemming from higher price competition and adverse exchange rate effects in markets like Brazil and Russia.
Amid the negative corporate releases, SK Telecom bounced up nearly 2 percent after reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit late Thursday. Samsung Electronics, the heaviest weighted stock on the Kospi index, rose 0.4 percent, recouping some of Thursday's losses due to a 36 percent on-year fall in fourth quarter profit.