wall street
A trader reacts as he watches screens on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York on Feb 5, 2018.Reuters

Asian shares drifted lower on Thursday following a drop in U.S. equities as growing trade tensions mounted concerns over the health of the global economy.

Risk appetite faltered amidst worries over sluggish consumer spending after U.S. retail sales fell for a third straight month in February.

Meanwhile the sudden firing of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson a day before took markets by surprise less than a week after top economic adviser Gary Cohn resigned from the President Donald Trump administration.

Stocks were modestly weaker in Japan, Australia and South Korea. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.05 percent in the morning trades.

The trend followed losses on Wall Street, where the S&P 500 Index declined 0.6 percent on Wednesday.

Back home, SGX Nifty, an early indicator of the Nifty 50's trend in India, signals a weak start for the domestic markets after the benchmark Sensex lost 21 points or 0.06 percent to close at 33,835 on Wednesday.

The partially convertible rupee closed at 64.84 on Wednesday, up 0.08 percent from its previous close of 64.90.

So far this year, the rupee weakened 1.6 percent, while foreign investors have bought $414 million and $212 million in equity and debt markets, respectively.

U.S. retail sales: Retail sales slipped 0.1 percent last month while the January data was revised to show sales dipping 0.1 percent instead of falling 0.3 percent as previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales rising 0.3 percent in February.

India inflation: Wholesale price inflation slowed for the third straight month to 2.48 percent last month, from a provisional 2.84 percent rise in January.

Crude check: Brent crude, the benchmark for more than half the world's oil, rose 0.14 percent at $64.98 per barrel while the West Texas Intermediate crude gained 0.21 percent at $61.09 a barrel, on Thursday morning.