China's exports rose 16.4 percent in March, beating a Reuters' analyst forecast of 3.2 percent to reverse a decline of 1.3 percent in February, data showed Thursday.
The yuan strengthened against the dollar; the on-shore yuan traded at 6.8789 against the greenback, while the off-shore yuan fetched 6.8746.
In corporate news, Western Digital warned that troubled Japanese conglomerate Toshiba will breach a joint venture contract if it sells its memory chip unit. Toshiba shares closed down 5.02 percent.
Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific announced that Chief Operating Officer Rupert Hogg would replace current Chief Executive Ivan Chu on May 1. The airline posted losses in March, the first time the company has reported annual losses since 2008. Cathay Pacific shares rose 0.55 percent.
Oil prices also fell, after data from the Energy Information Administration showed a build up in U.S. inventories. Reuters reported the EIA report showed stockpiles at the U.S. crude hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, rose 276,000 barrels in the week.
Brent fell 0.05 percent to $55.83 a barrel, while U.S. crude was down 0.11 percent at $53.05.
Meanwhile, Singapore's trade-reliant economy shrank 1.9 percent in the first quarter from the previous three months on an annualized basis, preliminary data showed on Thursday.
Separately, Singapore's central bank left monetary policy steady in a widely expected decision.
Stateside, U.S. equities were lower across the board. U.S. markets awaited earnings announcements from several major U.S. financials, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. The banks were expected to report results on Thursday ET.