Shares in Asia Pull Back

Most major Asian indexes closed lower on Thursday following the softer lead from Wall Street. Investors in the region also focused on quarterly releases as Japanese corporations kicked off earnings season.

The Nikkei 225 average in Japan lost 77.77 points, or 0.3%, to 23,710.43, with major exporters, including automakers and technology names, trading lower: Toyota fell 1%, Honda lost 1.9% and Sony shed 0.1% by the end of the day.

The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong gained 40.67 points, or 0.2%, to 31,120.39

Corporate earnings were also in focus in Japan. Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing, the most heavily weighted stock on the Nikkei 225, reported a record first-quarter profit in the three months ending November

Against the yen, the U.S. dollar edged higher to fetch 111.83.

The dollar had been on the back foot against the Japanese currency following news earlier this week that the Bank of Japan had slightly reduced its purchases of Japanese government bonds. The greenback had traded around the 113 handle at the beginning of the week.

Meanwhile, bitcoin tumbled after South Korea said it was readying a bill that would ban trade of the digital currency in the country. The cryptocurrency later pared some losses to trade at $13,422.36 U.S. late afternoon local time, according to industry site CoinDesk.

Also of note, Hyundai Motor announced in a statement that it would be partnering with Southeast Asian ride-hailing company Grab to develop "future mobility services" in the fast-growing region. The sum of the investment was not disclosed by the companies.

Chipmakers, which had weighed on the index in the last session, extended declines on Thursday. Samsung Electronics closed down 1.2% and SK Hynix shed 0.4%.

Automakers and manufacturing names also saw losses. Steelmakers Posco and Hyundai Steel declined 1.6% and 1.8%, respectively, while Hyundai Motor lost 0.3% by the end of the day.

Australian markets closed lower, with most sectors except gold producers edging lower on the day.

The Australian dollar got a boost after data released earlier showed November retail sales rose more than expected. The currency traded at $0.7867 U.S., which compared to levels around the $0.783 handle seen before the release.

CHINA

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 shed 2.22 points, or 0.1%, to 4,205.59, with technology and financials among the top-performing sectors.

Consumer and energy names were among the worst.

A report that China could potentially slow or halt its purchases following recommendation from officials in Beijing could be inaccurate, media reported Thursday, citing a source in the Chinese government.

In other markets

The Kospi in Korea dropped 11.84 points, or 0.5%, to 2,487.91

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index subtracted 21.03 points, or 0.2%, to 10,810.06

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index descended 7.77 points, or 0.2%, to 3,512.68

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 went for a header, dropping 114.46 points, or 1.4%, to 8,250.44

In Australia, the ASX 200 moved lower 29.06 points, or 0.5%, to 6,067.62