Among individual stocks, Japan's Panasonic Corp. fell 5.4 percent while Sony Corp. plummeted 10.1 percent. The struggling electronics giant reported a 10.7 billion yen ($115 million) loss for the October-December quarter on Thursday.

South Korea's Samsung Electronics rose 3 percent. Australia's Newcrest Mining advanced 5 percent.

Wall Street fell Thursday as weaker earnings unnerved investors despite data suggesting that company layoffs are easing. Media conglomerate News Corp. cut its forecast for annual earnings. Sprint Nextel Corp., the third-largest wireless carrier in the U.S., lost $1.3 billion in its latest quarter as it revamped its network to take on larger competitors.

On the bright side, fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week. Applications for unemployment benefits falling 5,000 to 366,000.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was up 14 cents to $95.97 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 79 cents to finish at $95.83 a barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3407 from $1.3401 late Thursday in New York. The dollar was down at 92.80 yen from 93.52 yen.

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