But European shares <.FTEU3> were expected to open higher as traders said a sell-off on Wednesday, sparked by fears of a clampdown on Chinese bank lending, may have been overdone.
The dollar surged to a four-month high against a basket of currencies <.DXY> as the euro fell. Possible tightening in China also drove investors to sell currencies leveraged to global growth, like the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian dollars.
The yen was holding steady about 0.4 percent up on the day.
China's fourth quarter gross domestic product was up 10.7 percent compared with a year earlier, below market expectations of 10.9 percent but up sharply from 9.1 percent in the third quarter.
Obviously the month-on-month growth momentum is very strong, said Xing Ziqiang, an economist at CICC in Beijing. So I think the chances for us to see an interest rate rise in the first quarter are increasing.
Some investors fear China's moves could impede a still-weak global economic recovery and curb its insatiable demand for commodities and other imported goods. But most economists agree that gradual and modest tightening moves by the Chinese central bank would do little to rob the economy of its strong momentum.
China's economic growth is expected to accelerate to 9.5 percent this year even if there are one or two rate rises, according to a Reuters poll of economists published on Thursday. The economy grew 8.7 percent in 2009.
It's not tightening yet, but the market tends to sensitively react to any signs of tightening policy at an early stage, said Masaru Hamasaki, senior strategist at Toyota Asset Management in Tokyo. We're still in that very precarious place.
But once we pass this phase, investors will likely shift their focus to the strength in the economy and expectations for solid earnings.
The MSCI Asia-Pacific index excluding Japan eased 0.62 percent <.MIAPJ0000PUS>, while the Thomson Reuters index of regional shares <.TRXFLDAXPU> lost 0.52 percent.
Japan's Nikkei index <.N225> gained about 1.2 percent on a stabilizing yen and positive sentiment for tech stocks, although the gains were capped by China-related caution. <.T>
It's not anything specific, just putting together bits of things -- recent brokerage upgrades of tech companies, U.S. tech results, higher prices for chips, said Hiroaki Osakabe, a fund manager at Chibagin Asset Management.
TDK <6762.T>, which makes parts for hard disk drives, jumped 4.8 percent to 6,070 yen after Citigroup raised its rating on the company to buy/high risk, partly citing strong demand for personal computers and low hard drive inventory levels.
Tech shares also led the charge in South Korea with LG Display <034220.KS>, the world's No. 2 LCD panel maker, and Hynix Semiconductor <000660.KS>, the world's No. 2 memory chip maker, surging on positive outlooks for the first quarter.
The overall KOSPI index <.KS11> closed 0.45 percent up.
Shanghai shares <.SSEC> ended slightly higher, rebounding from a near three percent fall on Wednesday that took it close to its 125-day moving average, a key support. But Hong Kong's Hang Seng index <.HSI> fell 1.3 percent on worries about China's future policy actions, particularly any fresh measures it may announce to cool its soaring property market.
Stock markets also fell in India and across most of Southeast Asia.
Copper, which is seen as an indicator of Chinese growth because of its wide use in industry, fell nearly 1 percent in Shanghai on the data.
I think it's bad news for base metals, and copper in particular. Fixed asset investment is lower, and inflation higher, which basically means demand is down and inflation is up, said a trader based in Singapore.
Rate hiking and currency appreciation have to come quicker.
In the bond market, Japanese government bonds held steady after strong demand for a 1.1 trillion yen ($12.06 billion) 20-year debt auction due.
The yield on the 20-year bond was mostly steady at 2.135 percent. The benchmark U.S. Treasury note yield fell to a one-month trough on Wednesday on a lower Wall Street and concerns over Greece's fiscal troubles.
Gold and crude oil edged higher to $1,114.10 per ounce and $78 a barrel, respectively.
(Editing by Kim Coghill)