Asian markets were mostly down on Thursday with traders in Japan booking profits following the Nikkei’s highest close since September 2008 as investors awaited fresh economic leads from China.
Tokyo fell 0.78 per cent by the break and Seoul slipped 0.11 per cent. Hong Kong was down 0.04 per cent and Shanghai slipped 0.14 per cent.
But Sydney bucked the trend, edging up 0.27 per cent.
Traders opted out of big risks ahead of the latest numbers from China, the world’s number two economy, due to be released on Friday before the country shuts up shop for the Lunar New Year holiday.
Investors were awaiting the release of key economic figures for January, including inflation and trade data, for more signs the domestic economy is improving, which could boost the market, analysts said.
However, the looming Chinese New Year holiday could put a damper on trading.
China’s economy expanded 7.8 per cent last year, its lowest annual figure since 1999, in the face of weakness at home and in key overseas markets.
But it grew 7.9 per cent in the final three months of last year from a year earlier as industrial output and retail sales strengthened, snapping seven straight quarters of slowing growth.
Eyes were also on a European Central Bank policy meeting later Thursday that is expected to keep monetary policy on hold.
Analysts said ECB policymakers would not undertake any more easing of monetary conditions despite worries about slow growth and the strengthening euro.
The Japanese currency edged up on Thursday morning following its recent sharp decline. The dollar fetched 93.46 yen in early Asian trade, compared with 93.57 yen in US trade.
The euro slipped to 126.38 yen from 126.46 yen but inched up to US$1.3522 from US$1.3519.
US stocks closed flat after a mixed trading day with some positive earnings reports providing support. The Dow ended 0.05 per cent higher, the S&P 500 climbed 0.05 per cent and the Nasdaq rose 0.10 per cent.
Oil was up in Asia as New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, gained 11 cents to US$96.73 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March delivery increased nine cents to US$116.82.
Gold was at US$1,677.87 at 0330 GMT compared with US$1,670.27 late Wednesday.