- Asian stock markets were mixed on Thursday, as ongoing concerns over the health of China’s economy continued to weigh on sentiment.

During late Asian trade, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng Index dropped 0.6%, China’s Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.07%, Australia’s ASX/200 Index closed 0.53% higher, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index ended down 0.1%.

Data released midway through the session showed that industrial production in China rose by an annualized rate of 8.6% in the first two months of 2014, below expectations for a 9.5% increase.

A separate report showed that Chinese retail sales rose by a smaller-than-forecast 11.8% in the same period.

Shares in the financial sector were higher after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that some defaults of investment products in the financial markets can''t be avoided, but pledged to contain systemic risk.

In Hong Kong, China Construction Bank rose 0.6%, while Industrial and Commercial Bank of China picked up 0.7%.

Elsewhere, in Australia, the ASX/200 Index edged higher after data showed that the economy added 47,300 jobs in February, easily surpassing expectations for an increase of 18,000. The jobless rate held steady at a ten-year high of 6.0% last month.

The big four banks were mostly higher, with National Australia Bank rising 0.6%, while ANZ Banking Group and Westpac Banking Group inched up 0.2% and 0.9%. Commonwealth Banking Group added 0.3%.

Copper producers were higher after prices of the industrial metal rebounded from a four-year low. Atlas Iron surged 6%, Fortescue Metals Group jumped 3%, while OZ Minerals advanced 3.7%.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, the Nikkei ended mildly lower as the yen strengthened against the U.S. dollar, weighing on sentiment. USD/JPY fell to a daily low of 102.48, the weakest level since March 6.

Looking ahead, European stock market futures pointed to a modestly higher open. The EURO STOXX 50 futures pointed to a gain of 0.25%, France’s CAC 40 futures added 0.2%, London’s FTSE 100 futures indicated a rise of 0.2%, while Germany''s DAX futures picked up 0.3%.

Across the Atlantic, U.S. equity markets also pointed to a firmer open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a gain of 0.15%, S&P 500 futures inched up 0.15%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a rise of 0.2%.

The U.S. is to release data on retail sales and import prices, in addition to the weekly government report on initial jobless claims.

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