Chinese GDP Figures Weigh on Asian Markets

Asian stocks pulled back from a six-month high Thursday, while the safe-haven yen gained after China posted its slowest ever quarterly growth in a signal of the frailty of the global economy.

A day after a mixed set of economic data from the U.S., it was China's turn, saying its economy grew aslower-than-expected 6.1 percent in the first quarter, but posting other data, such as industrial output, that signaled some optimism.

Riskier assets, such as oil , also pared gains but not by too much, helped as well by speculation that China could implement a new stimulus package reinforced hopes that policy maker worldwide are in battle mode amidst the worst global downturn in decades. Central bankers are cutting interest rates and flooding liquidity into financial systems, further reinforcing some of these hopes.

The yen benefited from the uncertainty, as it typically does at times of volatility, while investors sold riskier currencies. The dollar slipped against yen after the Chinese data. The Australian dollar also dropped against the yen .

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average closed 0.1 percent higher, with investors using disappointing Chinese economic data as an excuse to lock in profits after the
benchmark rose more than 3 percent in early trade. But falls were limited by views that the U.S. recession could be abating, while NEC Electronics ended trade bid up 12 percent on news it is in merger talks with Renesas Technology.

Seoul shares ended slightly firmer helped by advances in some techs and steel issues, but losses by banks including Hana Financial Group weighed limited gains.

Australian stocks climbed 0.75 percent to their highest close in over three months, though they came off early highs as slow Chinese growth data dampened optimism that the world economic downturn may soon ease.

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Hong Kong shares fell 0.6 percent on expectations that China would be spurred into announcing new support measures after its economy slowed to its weakest pace on record in the first quarter. Some Chinese counters, which have been big winners in the recent three-day rally, dropped, taking a cue from the slight pullback on the Shanghai Composite Index. China Huiyuan Juice jumped on reports it was being courted by more companies following Coca-Cola's failed attempt to buy China's top juice maker.

Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 0.6 percent. Singapore Exchange, Asia's second-largest listed bourse, edged flat after posting a bigger-than-expected 56 percent drop in quarterly net profit.

China's Shanghai Composite Index was flat in hectic trade, snapping a five-day winning streak with energy and property shares dropping after the release of first-quarter economic growth data that was largely in line with expectations.