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Asian Shares Mixed After Chinese Data

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Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday, as investors looked for progress in the U.S.-China trade talks currently underway in Beijing.

Chinese exports and imports data for January easily topped expectations, helping limit losses across the region.

China's Shanghai Composite Index edged down 1.37 points or 0.1 percent to 2,719.70, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index dipped 65.54 points or 0.2 percent to 28,432.05.

Chinese exports grew 9.1 percent in January from a year earlier, surprising economists who had expected exports to shrink for the second month in a row. Imports declined 1.5 percent.

Japanese shares ended roughly flat after data showed Japan's economy returned to growth in the fourth quarter.

GDP expanded a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter of 2018, below expectations for a gain of 0.4 percent following the 0.6 percent contraction in the three months prior.

The Nikkei 225 Index finished marginally lower at 21,139.71 after climbing nearly 4 percent over the previous two sessions. The broader Topix ended slightly higher at 1,589.81.

Apparel maker Asics Corp. plunged 5 percent after it posted a net loss of 20.3 billion yen ($182 million) for the year through December 2018. Furniture retailer Otsuka Kagu gave up 5.4 percent on fund raising reports.

Toshiba ended flat after the conglomerate reported an increase in profit for the nine-month period but lowered its earnings outlook for the full year.

Australian stocks gave up early gains to end little changed as losses in the financial sector offset gains among mining and energy companies.

Both the S&P/ASX 200 Index and the All Ordinaries Index ended marginally lower at 6,059.40 and 6,139.60, respectively.

Scandal-hit wealth manager AMP slumped 7.8 percent after it reported a 97 percent drop in full-year profit. Suncorp lost 3.8 percent after the insurance provider said its profit for the first half fell 45 percent from last year.

Telecom giant Telstra slumped 2.2 percent after reporting a 28 percent decline in first-half profit and cutting its interim dividend.

On the other hand, mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto gained 1.6 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively as copper prices rose amid signs of easing tensions in the U.S.-China trade conflict. Smaller rival South32 rallied 3.5 percent on strong half-year results.

Oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum advanced 1.9 percent after reporting an increase in its annual profit and raising its dividend. Santos, Oil Search and Origin Energy climbed 1-2 percent.

Meanwhile, South Korean stocks hit a four-month high as investors reacted to positive signals from the U.S.-China trade negotiations.

The benchmark Kospi rallied 24.37 points or 1.1 percent to 2,225.85, extending gains for the fourth straight session to reach its highest closing level since October 10.

Tech behemoth Samsung Electronics jumped 2.8 percent, chipmaker SK Hynix advanced 1.6 percent and panel maker LG Display rose 2.4 percent.

New Zealand shares fell, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index ending down 48.46 points or 0.5 percent at 9,284.92. A2 Milk shares tumbled 2.7 percent, while Synlait Milk rose 1.2 percent and SkyCity Entertainment Group ended up over 1 percent.

U.S. stocks rose overnight as fears over a government shutdown and trade war eased and consumer price inflation for January came in broadly in line with expectations.

However, the upside was contained after Republican Senator Marco Rubio proposed taxing buybacks on equal footing with dividends.

The Dow rose half a percent, the S&P 500 gained 0.3 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite edged up 0.1 percent.

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