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Mainland Chinese stocks tumble amid stimulus concerns; South Korean economy unexpectedly contracts

Key Points
  • Stocks in China tumbled on Thursday amid worries that Beijing could pull back on stimulus measures following recent better-than-expected economic data.
  • The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady on Thursday, and said it intends to keep interest rates "extremely low" until at least till 2020.
  • The South Korean economy shrank unexpectedly in the first quarter, seeing its worst performance since the global financial crisis.
  • Australia's markets were closed on Thursday due to a holiday.

Stocks in China tumbled on Thursday amid worries that Beijing could pull back on stimulus measures following recent better-than-expected economic data.

The Shanghai composite fell 2.43% to close at 3,123.83 and the Shenzhen component dropped about 3.21% to finish at around 9,907.62. The Shenzhen composite also plunged 3.411% to close at 1,688.25.

Stocks on the mainland have been on a general decline throughout the week as concerns over a potential paring back of stimulus measures by the Chinese government weighed on investor sentiment.

"I see the paring back as kind of a consolidation rather than a real pullback right now," Kevin Leung, executive director of investment strategy and wealth management at Haitong International Securities, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Thursday.

"People have been a little bit worried about like saying the markets have gone up quite quickly but then I think that's also based on the fact that markets went too low last year," Leung said.

Despite Thursday's declines, the Shanghai composite remained more than 25% higher as compared to its final close of 2018. In that same time period, both the Shenzhen component and Shenzhen composite are up more than 30% each.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index also slipped around 0.8%, as of its final hour of trading, with shares of Chinese tech giant Tencent falling beyond 2%.

The broad MSCI Asia ex-Japan index declined 0.67% to 537.72, as of 3:25 p.m. HK/SIN.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan rose 0.48% to close at 22,307.58. The Topix index also added 0.51% to finish at 1,620.28.

The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady on Thursday, and said it intends to keep interest rates "extremely low" until at least till 2020.

The short-term policy interest rate was left at minus 0.1 percent, along with a pledge to guide 10-year governmental bond yields around 0%, largely in line with market expectations.

The traded at 111.77 after seeing an earlier low of 112.23.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi declined 0.48% to close at 2,190.50. The moves came after the South Korean economy shrank unexpectedly in the first quarter, seeing its worst performance since the global financial crisis, Reuters reported. Following that data, several economists downgraded their 2019 growth forecasts for South Korea.

Shares of chipmaker SK Hynix jumped 2.17% after the company said it expects demand for memory chips to recover later in 2019.

Meanwhile, LG Electronics also saw its stock surge 4.48% following a report that said the company was looking to suspend manufacturing of its mobile phones in South Korea.

In a statement to CNBC, LG Electronics said the move was part of its "global strategy to make LG phones more competitive," emphasizing that it was not downsizing its smartphone business.

Australia's markets were closed on Thursday due to a holiday.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq had posted record closing highs in Tuesday's session, boosted by strong corporate earnings results from companies like United Technologies, Coca-Cola and Twitter. But stocks slipped from record levels on Wednesday as Wall Street digested a mixed batch of corporate earnings.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 98.039 after seeing lows around the 97.6 handle yesterday. The was at $0.7014 after slipping from levels above $0.707 yesterday.

Oil prices were mixed in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures rising 0.38% to $74.85 per barrel, while U.S. crude futures declined marginally to $65.87 per barrel.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert and Chery Kang contributed to this report.