MANILA, Philippines - Asian stock markets sank Monday, battered by weak Chinese trade and a reduced estimate for Japan's economic growth. European markets were mostly higher.
Shares in Malaysia Airlines tumbled on news of the weekend disappearance of one its jets en route to Beijing.
Japan's Nikkei 225 closed down 1 percent at 15,120.14 and China's Shanghai Composite plunged 2.9 percent to 1,999.06. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 1.8 percent to 22,264.93.
Markets were also down in Australia, Taiwan, South Korea and Southeast Asia.
Data released on the weekend showed China's exports fell by an unexpectedly large 18 percent in February, possibly denting hopes trade will help drive the slowing economy while communist leaders push ambitious reforms.
China's official 2014 economic growth target of 7.5 percent, announced last week by Premier Li Keqiang, assumes trade also will grow by 7.5 percent. But customs data show combined imports and exports so far this year have shrunk by 4.8 percent.
Meanwhile, Japan reported Monday a record current account deficit for January, and lowered its economic growth estimate for the October-December quarter to 0.7 percent from 1 percent.
Andrew Sullivan of Kim Eng Securities in Hong Kong said sentiment was affected by the weak data from China and from Japan.
However, "there are technical factors behind the China data which means it is not as bad as the first look suggests," he said in a market commentary.
Some analysts say exports in February last year might have been overstated by exporters inflating sales figures to evade currency controls and bring extra money into China.
In early European trading, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.4 percent to 6,738.95. France's CAC-40 gained 1.1 percent to 4,415.79 and Germany's DAX added 0.2 percent to 9,373.67.
Futures augured subdued trading on Wall Street. Dow Jones futures and S&P 500 futures were both little changed.
Shares of Malaysian Airlines System Bhd., the holding company of Malaysia Airlines, were down 4 percent on the Kuala Lumpur stock market, tempering a 10 percent fall in early trading.
One of its Boeing 777 jets went missing early Saturday morning on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. Search and rescue efforts in the South China Sea have not yet identified any debris.
Shares of other Asian airlines also fell. Cathay Pacific shed 0.4 percent and Qantas Airways lost 1.8 percent.
In the oil market, benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was down $1.21 at $101.37 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.02 on Friday to settle at $102.58.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3894 from its previous close of $1.3875. The dollar rose to 103.34 yen from 103.16 yen.