China's November dollar-denominated imports grew 6.7 percent, the fastest pace of annualized growth since September 2013, while exports were up 0.1 percent in dollar terms. A Reuters poll of analysts had expected November exports to have fallen 5 percent from the previous year, while imports were forecast to drop 6.2 percent.
The trade data had missed the expected release time by several hours.
Chinese shares were lower, with the Shanghai composite closed 0.2 percent lower or 6.51 points at 3,215.72 and the Shenzhen composite finished off 0.62 percent or 12.95 points at 2,077.37.
Investors are likely to eye the European Central Bank's interest rate decision due later in the day, when the central bank is expected to announce a six-month extension to its bond-buying program, according to a Reuters poll.
But one analyst warned that there's high chance that the ECB would disappoint markets.
"Apart from Mario Draghi's decision on the QE program, markets will also react to the bank's latest growth and inflation forecast. Their inflation forecast for 2019 (1.8 percent) may still remain below their target level of 2 percent. The bank may also ax its inflation forecast for 2017 from 1.6 percent to 1.5 percent," said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at ThinkMarkets, in a note on Thursday.
"The bar for disappointment is really high and the bank really needs to deliver on all angles to satisfy the markets," Aslam added.
The euro was fetching $1.0763 as of 3:05 pm HK/SIN, ahead of the ECB decision. One week earlier, it was hovering weaker at around $1.066.
"The big question is whether there will be an ECB surprise that triggers the same 4-cent (400 basis point) move in euro/dollar that we saw in December 2015," Kathy Lien, managing director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management, said in a note on Thursday.
Lien said the market was looking to see if the central bank would scale back its asset purchases, and if it did, there would be pressure on the euro/dollar.