Asian markets weak on eurozone concerns

Most Asian markets traded lower in the morning, extending the previous session's fed minutes-inspired decline amid other eurozone indicators, which pointed to weakening economic conditions in the region.

Japan's Nikkei average index fell 0.58 percent or 65.10 points to 11244.03 while China's Shanghai Composite Index eased 0.07 percent or 1.57 points to 2324.39. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was down 0.45 percent or 103.32 points to 22803.35.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 climbed 1.30 percent or 64.70 points to 5044.80 after the country's central bank chief expressed economic optimism. South Korea's benchmark KOSPI gained 0.37 percent or 7.41 points to 2022.63.

Wall Street had earlier succumbed to monetary stimulus concerns, ending lower to prompt Asian stocks to a weak start. Sentiments were dampened by the weak eurozone manufacturing figures released in the previous session that suggested a worsening financial situation.

The composite purchasing managers' index that tracked service and manufacturing sector for February released by London-based Markit fell to 47.3 in February from 48.6 the previous month. The data underlined speculations that the 17-nation currency bloc continued to remain weak in the beginning of 2013 and re- emphasised the European Central Bank's (ECB) weak forecasts for the year.

"A steepening rate of decline in February is a disappointment, and suggests that the eurozone is on course to contract for a fourth consecutive quarter in the first three months of the year," said Chris Williamson, Chief Economist at Markit.

Chinese investor confidence continued to remain weak on the Communist government's measures to cool the property sector, a major growth contributor in the world's second largest economy. This week the authorities asked regional governments to impose home purchase restrictions to ensure price control.  

Upbeat investor sentiments prevailed in Sydney after Reserve Bank of Australia's governor Glenn Stevens suggested that the economy already benefited from strong interest rate stimulus, adding that further rate cuts could be introduced if needed.

Major Movers

Export oriented stocks traded lower in Tokyo. Shares of Citizen Holdings Company fell 3.82 percent while Mitsubishi and Pioneer were down 3.30 and 3.08 percent respectively.

Tosoh Corp climbed 5.56 percent following reports from the Nikkei business daily that the company had come up with materials that would stop lithium ion batteries from catching fire. Recent issues on lithium ion batteries used by Boeing's Dreamliner aircrafts had brought related stocks in the spotlight.

Consumer stocks traded lower in Hong Kong Shares of Belle International Holdings fell 3.80 percent while those of Hengan International Group were down 1.63 percent.

South Korean automobile stocks edged higher. Hyundai gained 1.16 percent while Kia added 0.36 percent.