Asian markets traded lower on Thursday afternoon as investors exercised caution ahead of earnings season. Positive economic data from the US and Europe the previous day was not enough to provide a lift.

The Japanese Nikkei was down 1.07% or 157.61 points to 14,573.67.

The Shanghai Composite index was down 0.26% or 5.19 points to 2,028.14.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 0.22% or 47.65 points to 21,921.28.

Australia's S&P/ASX was up 0.01% or 0.60 points to 5,035.70.

South Korea's Kospi was down 0.09% or 1.76 points to 1,909.64 points.

Falling metals prices pulled down metals and mining stocks across Asian markets.

On Wednesday, in China, the cabinet announced minor stimulus measures to boost slowing growth in the world's second largest economy. Beijing will eliminate taxes on small businesses, reduce costs for exporters and increase government investments in the railways.

The news boosted rail stocks in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Earlier, economic data from the US showed that new home sales shot up to a five-year high in June.

Government data showed that sales increased 8.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 497,000 units.

Data from Europe showed that eurozone manufacturing surprisingly expanded in July, for the first time in two years.

The manufacturing purchasing managers index (PMI) rose to 50.1 from 48.8 in June, according to London-based Markit Economics.

Wall Street Mixed

On Wall Street, indices finished mixed on Wednesday with the Dow and the S&P 500 ending lower as market participants digested the latest batch of corporate results. However, better-than-expected results from technology giant Apple helped curb losses on the Nasdaq.

The Dow finished 25.50 points lower at 15,542.24, pulled down by Caterpillar and AT&T, while the S&P 500 index closed 6.45 points lower at 1,685.94.

The Nasdaq ended 0.33 points higher at 3,579.60. Apple's stock price finished 5.14% higher on Wednesday in New York.

Company Stock Movements

In Shanghai, China Railway Construction shares jumped 5.1% while the Daqin Railway stock moved up 3.4%, after China's cabinet said late Wednesday it would increase government investments in the railways.

Gold miner Zijin Mining Group shed 0.8%

In Hong Kong, China Railway Group jumped 4.2%. China Railway Construction shot up 3.7% while CSR gained 2.3%.

Zijin Mining fell 2.8%. Resource-focused conglomerate Citic Pacific was down 1.3%.

Casino-operator Wynn Macau lost 2.1%. Rival Sands China shed 2% despite reporting a more than tripling of second-quarter profit as a higher number of gambling tables and hotel rooms attracted more visitors.

In Tokyo, Canon fell 5.8% after it trimmed its outlook for the ongoing fiscal year, despite reporting a 28.6% jump profit in the April to June second quarter.

Rival Nikon dropped 4.2%. Construction-equipment maker Komatsu was down 2.6% while rival Hitachi Construction Machinery shed 2%.

Automaker Nissan Motor was down 1% ahead of its earnings update

In Seoul, Shares of STX Offshore and Shipbuilding surged 15% higher on a Reuters report that the company's creditors were nearing a decision on infusing additional capital.

The world's second largest chip maker SK Hynix inched up 0.7% after it reported a record-high operating profit in the April to June second-quarter owing to better-than-expected chip demand from iPhone-maker Apple and higher semiconductor prices.

Consumer electronics major LG Electronics was down 2.4%. Hana Financial Group lost 1.1%

In Sydney, mining engineering firm Ausenco tanked 31% after it put out a profit warning for its full-year performance.

Australia's top investment bank Macquarie Group shed 3% after it said that its tax rate would remain near 2012's high level.

Oz Minerals fell 7% after it said it would cut gold output and focus more on copper ore productions.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining dropped 3.3% after it forecast lower production in the ongoing quarter.

Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto was down 1% while resources major BHP Billiton fell 0.6%.