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Asia stocks mixed on Yemen; Nikkei slides after weak data

Asian equities were mixed on Friday due to lingering worries over Yemen, with Japan's benchmark index leading the losses on profit-taking and weak economic data.

Yemen's President left the city of Aden for Saudi Arabia on Thursday after Riyadh and its allies began air strikes targeting Yemen's Houthi rebels. Oil prices initially spiked on concerns that the conflict could close the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, a key shipping route for oil tankers located between Yemen and Djibouti. However, fears of a closure eased on Friday as oil prices resumed their declines; U.S. crude and Brent both fell nearly 2 percent during Asian trade following a 5 percent surge overnight.

Read MoreWhat another war in the Middle East means

Japanese data for the month of February was also in focus. The nationwide consumer price index that excludes the effects of April's sales tax hit zero, fueling renewed fears of deflation. Meanwhile, retail sales came in worse than expected and household spending posted a smaller-than-expected annual fall.

A weak handover from Wall Street also weighed on sentiment. U.S. stocks fell for a fourth straight session on Thursday despite data showing that jobless claims fell to a five-week low. Attention now turns to Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen's speech on Friday and the release of first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP)

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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Nikkei drops 1%

Japan's benchmark index erased earlier gains to close at an eleven-day low, with analysts attributing the declines to weak inflation data and profit-taking before the quarter's end.

Banks were among the biggest losers on the Nikkei, with Mizuho Financial down 3.5 percent. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ lost over 1 percent each.

Panasonic jumped over 3 percent after announcing it was prepared to spend 1 trillion yen on mergers and acquisitions over the next four years.

Shanghai up 0.3%

China's benchmark stock index closed near a seven-year high despite weak data; industrial profits for the first two months of the year fell 4.2 percent on year, the worst decline in three years.

Real-estate plays propped up the benchmark Shanghai Composite index; China Merchants Property ended 7.6 percent higher while Shanghai Shimao surged over 5 percent on reports of policy support measures.

Oil majors PetroChina and Sinopec tanked 2 and 1 percent, respectively, on the back of lower crude prices.

ASX gains 0.7%

Australian shares rebounded from a one-week low hit on Thursday, with the benchmark S&P ASX 200 breaching 5,900 points.

Banks that were heavily sold off on Thursday rose on bargain hunting, with Australia New Zealand Banking leading gains by more than 1 percent andWestpac 0.6 percent higher.

Kospi dips 0.1%

South Korea's benchmark Kospi index reversed early gains to close at an eleven-day low. Among blue-ship stocks, Hyundai Motor dropped 0.9 percent and steelmaker Posco fell 1.2 percent.