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Asia shares close lower as China economic data miss expectations

Key Points
  • Shares in Asia closed lower on Friday as China reported a slew of economic data that missed expectations, deepening worries about headwinds facing the world's second largest economy.
  • China reported that industrial production in November grew 5.4 percent year-on-year, lower than the 5.9 percent that Reuters projected.
  • The Bank of Japan's closely watched Tankan survey showed confidence among large Japanese manufacturers was steady in December compared to three months ago. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a deterioration in sentiment.

Shares in Asia closed lower on Friday as China reported a slew of economic data that missed expectations, deepening worries about headwinds facing the world's second largest economy.

China reported that industrial production in November grew 5.4 percent year-on-year, lower than the 5.9 percent that Reuters projected. Retail sales in the country rose 8.1 percent last month, below the 8.8 percent expected and the weakest pace since 2003, according to Reuters' records.

Greater China markets fell on Friday. The Shanghai composite ended the day 1.53 percent weaker at 2,593.7407 points and the Shenzhen composite closed 2.462 percent lower at 1,327.4163 points. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index declined 1.56 percent in late Asian trade.

"The latest data show an economy that is under pressure on both the external and domestic front, with policy efforts to shore up growth still falling short," Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note.

"Looking ahead, even if China and the US can negotiate a lasting truce on trade, cooling global growth and the lagged impact of slowing credit growth will remain a headwind on economic activity in the coming months," he added.

Australian markets also fell. The declined 1.05 percent to 5,602 points at Friday's close and the was at 0.7183 against the U.S. dollar, below Thursday's 0.7226.

Other Asian markets were also in negative territory. South Korea's Kospi slipped 1.25 percent to end the day at 2,069.38 points. Over in Japan, the Nikkei 225 declined by 2.02 percent to close at 21,374.83 points, while the Topix index was down 1.51 percent to 1,592.16 at the end of Friday's session.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

Japan's Tankan survey

The Bank of Japan released the closely watched survey before Japanese markets opened on Friday. The Tankan survey showed confidence among large Japanese manufacturers was steady in December compared to three months ago. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a deterioration in sentiment.

"Tankan shows the rate of activity remaining strong, in contrast to the very weak 3Q GDP results" Robert Carnell, ING's chief economist and head of research in Asia Pacific, wrote in a note.

The Tankan survey "is a better indication of the underlying strength of the Japanese economy than the prior GDP figures," Carnell added. The Japanese economy contracted by 2.5 percent in the third quarter.

Despite that, businesses in Japan were more pessimistic about their prospects in the coming three months.

Meanwhile, Apple screen supplier Japan Display surged around 35 percent after reports that the company was in talks with Chinese businesses and investment funds about potential alliances. Nothing has been decided but Japanese financial media Nikkei said possible partners include Chinese state-owned Silk Road Fund, Chinese electronic parts maker O-film Tech and Chinese auto parts maker Minth Group.

The inched up slightly to 113.57. The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of major currencies, was at 97.202 — slightly higher than the precious close of 97.064.

European Central Bank winds down stimulus

On Thursday, the European Central Bank said it's bringing to an end a crisis-era bond-buying program this month. Bond purchases by the ECB will fall from 15 billion euros ($17.04 billion) a month to zero by the end of December, but the central bank plans to spend cash from maturing bonds to purchase additional debt.

The ECB also left benchmark interest rates unchanged.

The euro slipped after the ECB announcements. During Asian trading hours, the single currency inched down against the U.S. dollar to 1.1346.

Wall Street action

U.S. stocks seesawed on Thursday while investors digested new developments in the ongoing U.S.-China trade war after a volatile week on Wall Street.

Equities rose broadly earlier in the day but ended the session mixed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 0.29 percent higher at 24,597.38 after alternating between gains and losses throughout the day. The fell marginally by 0.53 percent to 2,650.54, while the Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.4 percent to 7,070.33

— CNBC's Sam Meredith and Fred Imbert contributed to this report.