Asian markets eked out some gains Friday. Stocks spent the better part of the session dipping below and above the line. Japan and South Korea pulled ahead at the close, finishing higher, but China and Australia closed weaker.
Worries over the fallout from the U.S. mortgage crisis ebbed after Merrill Lynch's shares rose 4 percent on hopes the world's largest brokerage was closer to seeing improvement from massive subprime-related write-downs.
Financials were mostly weaker following Merrill Lynch's quarter results. Merrill rose 4 percent after the broker posted its third consecutive quarterly loss and said it's cutting 4,000 employees. Chief Executive John Thain said the period was "as difficult a quarter as I've seen in my 30 years on Wall Street."
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average finished 0.6 percent higher, up for a fourth day, with exporters such as Canon advancing on a softer yen and receding pessimism about U.S. business conditions. Still, caution prevailed in thin trade, as investors moved to
the sidelines ahead of earnings results from Citigroup later in the day and Japanese companies next week.