Asia Mixed; China Flash PMI Lifts Sentiment

ASX 200
CNBC 100

Asian shares finished mixed on Thursday after manufacturing data from China confirmed a recovery in the world's second biggest economy was on track, easing nervousness caused by a sharp drop in Apple shares after its earnings report.

The HSBC flash purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose to 51.9 in January , the highest since January 2011 and above the 50-point level that shows accelerating growth in the sector from the previous month.

Japan's Nikkei average rose after strong China data helped firms with high exposure to the economy, while exporters gained ground after the yen weakened.

The Nikkei gained 1.3 percent to 10,620.87, climbing back above the 10,600 level after hitting a three-week closing low on Wednesday in its third straight day of declines. The broader Topix rose 1.1 percent to 897.62.

South Korean shares fell as auto stocks plunged on Hyundai Motor weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter profit, while tech shares dropped after Apple posted disappointing results.

(Read More: Apple Earnings Beat but Revenue Falls Short )

Shares in Hyundai Motor fell 4.6 percent, while tech heavyweight Samsung Electronics slid 1.4 percent.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 0.8 percent to close at 1,964.48 points.

Australian shares closed up 0.5 percent, a fresh 21-month high after reversing morning losses when a measure of growth in China's factory sector accelerated to a two-year high in January, boosting local miners.

The positive read from China, Australia's top export market, helped BHP Billiton recover from earlier losses to end 0.3 percent higher.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 22.4 points to 4,810.20, according to the latest data, the best close since May 2, 2011. New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index inched up 0.1 percent to 4,189.9.

China shares surrendered strong early gains, weighing on Hong Kong, after North Korea said it was proceeding with plans for more rocket launches and a nuclear test.

North Korea said it would carry out further rocket launches and a nuclear test that would target the United States, dramatically stepping up its threats against a country it called its "enemy", according to its state news agency.

The CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings closed down 1 percent at 2,582.8. The Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.8 percent as bourse volume hit the highest in more than a week.

Hong Kong shares slipped for a second-straight day, falling further away from chart resistance that had stymied gains for about a week, with Apple's suppliers hit after the tech giant reported underwhelming quarterly revenue.

The Hang Seng Index closed down 0.2 percent at 23,598.9, slipping further from resistance at about 23,708, the high of May 31, 2011. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong shed 0.6 percent.

Shares of Apple's suppliers were hit after Apple missed revenue expectations for a third straight quarter as sales of its flagship iPhone came in below Wall Street's expectations. AAC Technologies tumbled 6 percent.

China Mobile slid 2.2 percent to a two-month low after JP Morgan analysts downgraded its rating on the stock from "neutral" to "underweight," expecting the country's largest mobile operator to post its first negative year-on-year earnings change for 2013.

Shares of Foxconn International Holdings (FIH), the world's biggest contract maker of cellphones, fell more than six percent, after it said it expected to record a net loss for 2012 due to dismal demand from its major clients.

India's benchmark BSE index ended down 0.47 percent, while the broader NSE index dropped 0.6 percent.

In Southeast Asia, markets climbed higher, with Singapore's Straits Times Index ending 0.5 percent higher and Malaysia's KLCI Composite Index closing up 0.4 percent.