Asia Loses Ground

Markets in Asia were mostly lower on Thursday, following a mixed close in U.S. equities overnight as minutes from the Federal Reserve's previous meeting hinted that a rate hike is imminent.

The Nikkei 225 Index docked 8.41 points to 19,371.46

The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong sank 87.1 points, or 0.4%, to 24,114.86

Nissan announced it was appointing its co-CEO, Hiroto Saikawa, to be the chief executive officer as of April 1. Carlos Ghosn, who is chairman of the board and current CEO, will continue to serve as chairman and will seek a renewal of mandate at Nissan's general shareholders meeting in June. Nissan shares slipped 0.6%

Elsewhere, media reports swirled that South Korea's SK Hynix will consider making a fresh bid for Toshiba's flash memory chip business if the Japanese conglomerate offers more of it for sale.

On Wednesday, the Nikkei business daily reported that Toshiba asked potential bidders for the memory chip business to peg the unit's operations' value at two trillion yen ($17.6 billion U.S.) or more.

Toshiba shares closed down 4.3%, while SK Hynix fell 0.8%

South Korea's central bank kept interest rates unchanged on Thursday in a widely expected move, leaving the base rate steady at 1.25%.

The Korean won traded at 1,136.47 to the U.S. dollar, strengthening from levels near 1,141.70 earlier in the session.

Australian markets slid, with gains in most sectors offset by a nearly 2% drop in the materials sector and a 2.03% decline in utilities.

Major miners in the country finished lower, with Rio Tinto down 5.5%, Fortescue off by 2.6% and BHP Billiton down 2.7%

Qantas reported first-half underlying profit before tax fell 7.5% on-year to 852 million Australian dollars for the six months ended Dec. 31, 2016, but was above the guidance range provided in October. Qantas shares finished up 5.4%

The yen traded at 113.25 to the greenback, strengthening from levels near 113.45, while the Australian dollar fetched $0.7686 U.S.

In other markets

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 fell 16.44 points, or 0.5%, to 3,473.32

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index subtracted 9.47 points, or 0.1%, to 9,769.31

In Korea, the Kospi index edged ahead 1.02 points, or 0.1%, to 2,107.63

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index moved up 15.37 points, or 0.5%, to 3,137.57

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 gained 27.04 points, or 0.4%, to 7,089.52

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 doffed 20.44 points, or 0.4%, to 5,784.66