Asia Markets

US growth jitters, earnings spark selloff in Asia stocks

Asian stocks plummeted on Thursday amid a mixed bag of corporate earnings and renewed concerns over the state of the U.S. economy.

Declines offshore foreshadowed the "risk-off" sentiment. Overnight, Wall Street ended lower after the Federal Reserve offered no changes to its zero interest rate policy following weak first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data. The Fed's April statement also removed all calendar references and showed no new guidance on the timing of the rate hike.

Fresh data showed U.S. economy expanded a meager 0.2 percent in the first three months of the year, thanks to a strengthening dollar and stubbornly frugal consumers amid the harsh winter. The GDP print was much lower than the 1.0 percent estimated by Reuters economists and a big step down from the fourth quarter's 2.2 percent.

For most of Asia, the trading week concludes today due to the Labor Day holiday on Friday.

Nikkei sinks 2.7%

Japan's Nikkei 225 suffered its biggest loss in four months, hurt by a triple whammy that included less-than-stellar U.S. growth, lackluster earnings from Japan Inc and the Bank of Japan's (BOJ) decision to keep policy steady at its monthly policy meeting. The Tokyo bourse was closed for the Showa Day holiday on Wednesday.

The day's laggards include Honda Motor, down 6.7 percent, following Tuesday's news that its profit for the fiscal fourth quarter slumped 43 percent, compared with the same period a year ago.

Takeda Pharmaceutical tanked 2.1 percent after agreeing to pay up to $2.4 billion to settle U.S. suits charging that the drug maker hid the cancer risk of its Actos diabetes drug.

Panasonic drifted 0.5 percent higher as investors digested Tuesday's earnings release, which beat expectations for the fiscal year with a $1.5 billion net profit.

Domestic data showing a better-than-anticipated industrial production report did little to lift sentiment. Japanese factory output dropped 0.3 percent on month in March, data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) showed before the market open, better than expectations for a 2.3 percent decline in a Reuters poll.

Why Sony may over-deliver on full-year results
Why Sony may over-deliver on full-year results

ASX falls 0.8%

Australia's S&P ASX 200 index came off the day's lows, but settled at a six-week low as the Australian dollar remained near the 80 U.S. cent mark.

"There was clear exhaustion from the bulls at 5,990 points... and the signs are growing for the ASX to ease after rocketing up 7.8 percent year-to-date. There is nothing wrong with a healthy pullback," IG market strategist Evan Lucas said in a note.

The banking sector found itself on the back foot, due to bets that next week's earnings will likely miss expectations. Australia and New Zealand Banking and Westpac slumped over 2 percent each, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank closed down 1.8 percent, respectively.

The other casualty for the day was the telecommunications sector. Market heavyweight Telstra eased 1.4 percent.

Television broadcaster Ten Network shaved gains to finish flat after delivering a steep first-half net loss and warned that it may not be able to survive if advertising revenue falls more than expected.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's central bank kept interest rates steady as expected early Thursday, but indicated that it remained open to cutting rates if domestic demand weakens. The suffered a sharp drop, down 1.2 percent at 0.7590 against the U.S. dollar.

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Shanghai Comp sags 0.8%

After trading rangebound around the index's previous closing level all day, China's Shanghai Composite widened losses at the close as some transportation stocks gave up earlier gains.

Airline shares put up a robust showing on Thursday, with China Eastern Airlines soaring 6.7 percent on the back of positive first-quarter earnings. Buoyant sentiment also lifted China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines by more than 2 percent each, but Air China pulled back to close down 0.8 percent.

Lenders were stung by another slew of disappointing earnings. Bank of China and China Construction Bank posted their slowest first-quarter profit growth in 6 years, while Industrial and Commercial Bank of China saw net profit rise 1.4 percent, marking its slowest pace in 8 years. All three lenders sold off between 1.9 and 2.6 percent.

China CNR and CSR receded 4.5 and 3.9 percent each after Bombardier refuted reports that its train business could be acquired by the two Chinese train makers. The Canadian company told CNBC via email on Thursday that its "Bombardier Transportation is not for sale."

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Kospi drops 0.7%

Amid a fresh batch of earnings releases, South Korea's benchmark Kospi index ended down at a 9-day low, marking its fifth straight day of losses.

Shares of web search operator Naver Corp percent lost 4.3 percent after missing forecasts with a 3 percent rise in first-quarter operating profit from a year earlier.

Cheil Industries, an affiliate of Samsung Group, sagged 4.8 percent on the back of a 61 percent on-year slump in operating profit for the first three months of 2015.

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Southeast Asia

After plunging 5.4 percent thus far this week, Indonesia's benchmark Jakarta Composite index slipped 0.4 percent to its lowest level since December 2014.

Bangkok's SET index edged up 0.3 percent, moving away from Wednesday's 4-month closing low, as the Bank of Thailand surprised markets with a 25-basis-point cut, bringing its benchmark interest rate down to 1.5 percent.

Singapore's Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC) beat expectations with an 11 percent rise to record quarterly net profit, yet shares moved down 1.8 percent. Rival United Overseas Bank (UOB) settled up 0.3 percent after narrowly missing forecasts with a 1.6 percent increase in first-quarter profits.

Meanwhile, the broader Straits Times index finished flat.