Asia stocks decline; Nikkei ends down 1% on stronger yen

Asian stock markets were mostly lower on Thursday, with shares in Japan leading losses as a stronger yen weighed on sentiment.

During late Asian trade, Hong Kong's Hang Seng dipped 0.1%, China’s Shanghai Composite inched down 0.11%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 closed 0.24% higher, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 ended down 0.97%.

Asia was given a negative lead from the U.S., where markets closed lower after the Commerce Department reported that sales of new homes in the U.S. fell to the lowest level since July 2013 in March.

Sales on new homes dropped 14.5% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 384,000, lower than analysts' forecasts for a sales rate of 450,000.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei fell to a one-week low as traders continued to monitor movements in the currency market. USD/JPY rose to a daily low of 103.18, easing off the previous session’s high of 104.10.

Automakers Toyota (7203.TOK) and Honda (7267.TOK) saw shares drop 1.5% and 1.2% respectively, while Sony (6758.TOK) declined 3.1%. Index heavyweights Fast Retailing (9983.TOK) and Softbank (9984.TOK) saw shares slump 1.2% and 2% respectively.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said earlier a trade deal with the U.S. had still not been finalized and that bi-lateral talks were continuing.

Meanwhile, shares in mainland China and Hong Kong edged lower amid ongoing concerns over the health of China’s economy.

Index heavyweight China Mobile (0941.HK) lost 1% as market players continued to digest its third straight quarterly profit decline.

Elsewhere, in Australia, the ASX/200 Index inched higher in subdued trade to hit a fresh six-year high as gains in the mining sector boosted the benchmark index.

Atlas Iron (AGO.ASX) rallied 2.1% after reporting record shipments for the first quarter of the year.

Looking ahead, European stock market futures pointed to a modestly higher open as investors positioned ahead of a speech by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi later in the trading day.

The DJ Euro Stoxx 50 futures pointed to a gain of 0.45%, France’s CAC 40 futures rose 0.4%, London’s FTSE 100 futures indicated a gain of 0.3%, while Germany's DAX futures added 0.5%.

Across the Atlantic, U.S. equity markets also pointed to a firm open. The Dow 30 futures pointed to a gain of 0.3%, S&P 500 futures inched up 0.5%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a sharp rise of 1.2%.

The Nasdaq was set to open sharply higher following upbeat corporate earnings from index heavyweights Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) released after Wednesday’s closing bell.