Financial markets have hinged on virus headlines through the week and rallied at any sign of infections easing.
Officials in Hubei province ? the epicentre of the outbreak - shocked markets on Thursday by announcing a sharp increase in new infections and deaths from the coronavirus, reflecting the adoption of a new method to diagnose the illness.
The province on Friday reported 4,823 new cases, well above the levels seen earlier this month, but the daily death toll and number of infections were down sharply from the previous day.
"The main catalyst for the case for higher equities remains the promise of global stimulus, but if China's weakness extends to the second quarter, risk appetite will have trouble driving risky assets higher, " Edward Moya, analyst at OANDA wrote in a note.
Central banks of Singapore and Malaysia have hinted at policy easing in the future, while Thailand recently cut its benchmark interest rate to a record low.
Leading declines, the Philippine index dropped as much as 0.7%, dented by losses in conglomerates Ayala Land and SM Investments.
The energy-heavy Thai index was lifted by oil prices, which were set for their first weekly gain in six. Petroleum producers PTT Pcl and PTT Exploration and Production Pcl advanced 0.6% and 1.2%, respectively. [O/R]
Indonesian equities edged a tick higher, but were set to log losses for the week. The benchmark index was supported by consumer stocks, with food distributor PT Indofood Sukses Makmur Tbk adding up to 1.4%
Singaporean stocks were subdued, but poised for their biggest weekly gain in over three months. Index heavyweights Jardine Strategic Holdings and Jardine Matheson Holdings advanced up to 1.9% and 1.3%, respectively.
Vietnamese shares were little changed.
(Reporting by Arundhati Dutta; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)
By Arundhati Dutta