Benchmarks in Singapore, Thailand and New Zealand also fell. Mainland China and Taiwan were closed for Lunar New Year holidays.
Jackson Wong, vice president at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong, said the Hang Seng was pausing before markets on mainland China reopen Monday after a weeklong Chinese New Year holiday.
"Analysts are expected a decent gain on the first day," he said, referring to mainland Chinese stocks. "I do expect a gain but not a huge gain. Chinese markets have been moving up steadily like the Hong Kong market. I believe they will continue this trend."
Japanese export shares, which have surged in recent weeks from a weakening yen, got hammered as the Japanese currency reversed course. Sharp Corp. plunged 4 percent. Ricoh Co. shed 3.4 percent. Yamaha Motor Co. tumbled 5.7 percent.Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto fell 2.7 percent after posting a $3 billion loss for 2012 after taking a $14 billion writedown from its aluminum business and the acquisition of a coal company in Mozambique. Benchmark oil for March delivery was down 27 cents to $97.04 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 30 cents to finish at $97.31 per barrel on the Nymex on Thursday. In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3335 from $1.3346 late Thursday in New York. The dollar fell to 92.40 yen from 93.02 yen. ___ Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson