Mainland indices lower
China's share markets saw a rise in volatility in the afternoon trading session, with the Shanghai Composite index closing down 2.1 percent after moving up as high as 1.6 percent. Most of the losses came about in the final 30 minutes of trading before the market close at 3pm local time, replicating the swift jolt in market activity late Wednesday.
The benchmark CSI300 Index also erased early advances to fall 2.2 percent, while the smaller Shenzhen Composite ended 1.5 percent lower.
Investors may be eyeing new developments in Beijing's stock market probe; Zhang Yujun, the assistant chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), is under investigation for "severe violation of discipline," according to a statement by the country's anti-graft watchdog Central Commission for Discipline Inspection late Wednesday. Zhang is set to be replaced by Li Chao, the former secretary of the People's Bank of China's (PBOC) chief Zhou Xiaochuan.
"This is quite significant as it should ease conflicts between the CSRC and PBOC, and hopefully see them working well together in the reform of China's securities sector. It is also further evidence of the rise of the PBOC towards an international-standard central bank during Xi Jinping's reign, a world away from its position as an unimportant backwater in the Communist hierarchy at the beginning of the Reform period," IG's chief market strategist Chris Weston wrote in a note.
All main sectors tumbled on Thursday. Citic Securities plunged 4.2 percent in Shanghai following news from Tuesday that the brokerage's president and two other executives are being probed for suspected insider trading and leaking information. However its Hong Kong-listed shares bumped up 2 percent, outperforming the Hang Seng index which nursed modest losses.
Read MoreCSRC official the latest target of Beijing's stock probe
Nikkei jumps 1.4%
The inspiring handover from Wall Street helped Japan's Nikkei 225 index to chalk up a three-day winning streak, brushing off disappointing trade data released before the market open.
Japan's exports rose 3.1 percent in August from a year earlier, down from 7.6 percent in the preceding month and missing expectations for a 4.0 percent annual increase, underscoring concerns about the fragile recovery in the world's third-biggest economy. Imports fell 3.1 percent on-year, wider than the estimate for a 2.2 percent decrease.
This translates into a monthly deficit of 569.7 billion yen a year earlier, versus Reuters' forecast for a trade deficit of 541.3 billion.
Investors also seem to be ignoring news that ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgraded its credit rating for Japan from AA- to A+ on Wednesday.
Fanuc rallied 3.4 percent, while other heavyweight components such as Fast Retailing and SoftBank forged higher by 2.2 and 1.9 percent respectively.
Securities and steel producers were also among the day's top performers; Nisshin Steel and Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal closed up 4.7 and 3.1 percent respectively, while Nomura Holdings gained 3.7 percent.
Meanwhile, shares of Omron Corp jumped 4.4 percent on the back of news that it will acquire U.S.-based robot maker Adept Technology.