Asian markets were mostly higher on Thursday but sentiment took a hit after China released another batch of disappointing data, adding to fears about growth in the economic giant.
The euro rose to a 29-month high against the dollar, while the Australian dollar also surged against its US counterpart after Sydney reported a jump in full-time employment.
Tokyo fell 0.10 percent, or 14.41 points, to finish at 14,815.98 and Hong Kong was down 0.67 percent, or 145.87 points, at 21,756.08 but Sydney rose 0.53 percent, or 28.4 points, to close at 5,412.6. Seoul added 0.10 percent, or 1.84 points, to 1,934.38.
Shanghai jumped 1.07 percent, or 21.42 points, to end at 2,019.11, with analysts suggesting Chinese policymakers should start looking at moves to boost economic growth.
China said industrial output, which measures production at factories, workshops and mines, rose 8.6 percent year on year in January and February, the slowest rate since April 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis.
At the same time retail sales, a key indicator of consumer spending, were up 11.8 percent, which was also the worst performance for several years.However, the news adds to speculation the Chinese economy -- a crucial driver of regional and global growth -- is slowing and comes days after officials announced a surprise trade deficit in February, which sent world shares tumbling.
Zhou Hao, Shanghai-based economist for ANZ bank, called the data "a complete mess" and said it showed that policies were needed to spur growth.
"Basically none of the figures were in line with expectations, all came in much lower than expected," he told AFP.
And ANZ economist Liu Ligang told Dow Jones Newswires: "It is time for the government to consider some loosening, either fiscal or monetary, to sustain growth."
- Euro touches 29-month high -
Wall Street provided a mixed lead, with the Dow losing 0.07 percent, the S&P 500 edging up 0.03 percent and the Nasdaq 0.37 percent higher.
In currency exchanges, the euro hit $1.3950 intraday -- its highest since the end of 2011 -- before easing a tad to $1.3945 in the late afternoon.
Dealers moved into the unit after figures showed industrial output in the 18-nation eurozone fell 0.2 percent in January, following a sharper drop of 0.4 percent in December when it had 17 members. However, the underlying trend appears consistent with a very modest economic recovery in the bloc.
Compared with January 2013, output increased 2.1 percent.
The euro was also at 143.08 yen from 142.85 yen in New York, while the dollar stood at 102.60 yen, against 102.75 yen.
In other forex deals, the New Zealand dollar jumped to 85.60 US cents, its highest level since October, after country's central bank hiked interest rates and indicated further rises were likely.
And the Australian dollar jumped to 90.65 US cents from 89.53 US cents late Wednesday after a better-than-expected rise in full-timepositions.
Oil prices were higher. New York's main contract, Wet Texas Intermediate for April delivery, rose 15 cents to $98.14 and Brent North Sea crude for April was up 25 cents at $108.27.
Gold fetched $1,373.20 an ounce at 0840 GMT compared with $1,356.38 late Wednesday.
In other markets:
-- Taipei rose 0.73 percent, or 63.06 points, to 8,747.79.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. jumped 3.1 percent to Tw$116.5 while smartphone maker HTC fell 0.34 percent to Tw$148.0.
-- Wellington added 0.30 percent, or 15.45 points, to 5,111.98.
Fletcher Building was up 2.10 percent at NZ$9.73 and Air New Zealand gained 2.45 percent to NZ$1.88.
-- Manila eased 0.51 percent, or 32.68 points, to 6,429.79.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. dropped 2.23 percent to 2,720 pesos while International Container Terminal Services Inc. was unchanged at 100 pesos.