Australia's S&P/ASX 200 bucked the regional trend, picking up 0.1 percent to 6,066.10. Shares fell Taiwan and throughout Southeast Asia. Disappointing data led U.S indexes to a mixed finish on Thursday. According to the Commerce Department, December retail sales fell 1.2 percent from the previous month, its biggest drop since September 2009.
The National Retail Federation also announced poor holiday sales growth in November-December that it attributed to trade tensions with China and the U.S. government shutdown. "The market is in a defensive stance. Traders are wondering if the latest retail sales figures are a harbinger of more bad news to come," said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Private Banking.
American and Chinese officials will wrap up two days of negotiations in Beijing later Friday. It is unclear if they will make headway on prickly issues such as Washington's unhappiness over Chinese technology and trade policies.
The U.S. is set to more than double import taxes on $200 billion in Chinese goods by March 2. But President Donald Trump has hinted that he may hold off on these if both sides made enough progress at the trade talks.
WALL STREET: The broad S&P 500 index dropped 0.3 percent to 2,745.73. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite added 0.1 percent to 7,426.95 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.4 percent to 25,439.39. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks was 0.1 percent higher at 1,545.11.
ENERGY: U.S. crude added 14 cents to $54.55 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 51 cents to settle at $54.41 per barrel in New York on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 19 cents to $64.76 per barrel. It rose 96 cents to close at $64.57 per barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar eased to 110.38 yen from 110.45 yen late Thursday. The euro fell to $1.1287 from $1.1296.