Asia markets tentative as mixed China data stokes uncertainty

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian markets were lost for direction on Wednesday after a reading on Chinese growth held up better than many had feared, only for data on retail sales and industrial output to disappoint.

The mixed bag was mirrored in the market reaction with Chinese shares edging higher while commodity currencies such as the Australian dollar took a hit from signs of softer demand.

Shanghai stocks wavered around flat before rising 0.25 percent, while the CSI300 index of the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen added 0.3 per cent.

Shanghai has been rising for six weeks straight as investors have chosen to focus on the prospect of extra policy stimulus.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was off 0.2 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei was all but flat.

The Australian dollar initially dipped a quarter of a U.S. cent to US$0.7591, but then quickly steadied.

China's annual economic growth did slow to a six-year low of 7 per cent in the first quarter, but there was relief it matched expectations. A poor trade performance in March had stirred talk growth might fall short of the psychologically important 7 per cent level.

However, a 10.2 per cent annual rise in retail sales and 5.6 per cent growth in industrial output both missed forecasts.