Asia markets higher as volatility fears ease

Tokyo (AFP) –


Asian stock markets climbed on Friday in thin holiday trade, led by gains in Tokyo, as volatility eased after last week's rollercoaster ride.

Tokyo tracked Wall Street higher as investors gradually regained confidence heading into the weekend and set aside inflation fears that had sparked the market meltdown last week.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index gained 1.19 percent, or 255.27 points, to 21,720.25 while the broader Topix index was up 1.05 percent, or 18.10 points, at 1,737.37.

However, trading was generally subdued in the region as many markets, including in China, Hong Kong and South Korea, were closed for the Chinese New Year break.

"Risk-averse attitude will be receding gradually with a sense of bottoming out in US shares," Okasan Online Securities said.

Among major individual Japanese stocks, Sony rose 1.75 percent to 5,264 yen and Toyota gained 0.92 percent to 7,208 yen.

Tokyo Electron, a manufacturer of chip-making equipment, added 1.81 percent to 20,425 yen after a brokerage upgraded its estimate of the firm's value.

On Thursday Wall Street had continued its rebound from a six-day losing stretch that sent major indices down more than 10 percent -- considered correction territory.

US indices closed higher for the fifth straight session, with the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average both gaining 1.2 percent.

There were also gains in Europe, though more muted.

As for other markets open in Asia, the Australian ASX ended fractionally down 0.08 percent.

The New Zealand market fared better, closing up nearly 0.77 percent.

Oil markets also firmed, driven by greater risk appetite and a weaker dollar, which has been a "significant component driving market sentiment", according to Stephen Innes, an analyst at OANDA.

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.2 percent at 21,720.25 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: Closed for a public holiday

Shanghai - Composite: Closed for a public holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2546 from $1.2464

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.4140 from $1.4012

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.71 yen from 106.14 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 27 cents at $61.66 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 32 cents at $64.65 per barrel

New York - DOW: UP 1.2 percent at 25,200.37 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,234.81 points (close)