Asian Stocks
A Tokyo Stock Exchange employee looks up at a monitor displaying market indices at the bourse in Tokyo. Reuters

Asian stock markets were mixed Thursday as investors opted for caution ahead of China’s fourth quarter economic activity data release slated for Jan.18.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.12 percent or 27.27 points to 23,329.72, Chinese Shanghai fell 0.73 percent or 16.92 points to 2.292.58 and South Korea’s KOSPI Composite declined 0.16 percent, while Japanese benchmark Nikkei advanced 0.09 percent or 9.20 points to 10,609.64 and India’s BSE Sensex rose 0.47 percent.

Market participants remained watchful before a slew of economic data release from China. The world's second-largest economy is slated to report its fourth quarter GDP data Friday, along with retail and industrial production figures.

The data is expected to show that China’s GDP growth rebounded in the final quarter of 2012, after slowing for seven straight quarters. Fourth quarter GDP growth is expected to rise to 7.9 per cent on an annual basis, up from 7.4 percent growth reported in the third quarter, putting to rest any doubt about China escaping a hard landing.

“We’re seeing some profit-taking following recent gains. This profit-taking is temporary. Valuations have gotten a little bit higher but not yet expensive. The macroeconomic backdraft is still supportive of equities,” Yoji Takeda, who oversees about $1.2 billion as Hong Kong-based head of Asian equities at RBC Investment Management (Asia) Ltd, told Bloomberg.

Japanese shares pared earlier losses and ended with small gains as the yen resumed its dip against the dollar. Japanese benchmark Nikkei plunged more than 1.3 percent before ending up in the positive territory.

Sharp Corp. rallied 7.30 percent after Nikkei business daily reported that the company was considering a tie-up with the Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo Group. Sony Corp. (NYSE:SNE) climbed 5.68 percent after the company stock was upgraded to “neutral” rating from “sell” rating by Goldman Sachs.

Financial institutions and property developers led the declines in China. China Life Insurance Co Ltd. declined 2.98 percent and China Construction Bank Corp. fell 1.28 percent in Shanghai, while Evergrande Real Estate Group Ltd. tumbled 6.67 percent in Hong Kong.

In Seoul, Hyundai Motor Co. gained 0.95 percent and LG Electronics gained 1.79 percent, while Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. declined 1.54 percent.