Asian equity markets raked in gains on Thursday, with the exception of Shanghai, as the fall in oil prices abated, while a positive finish on Wall Street overnight lifted trading sentiment.
U.S. stocks jumped overnight, with the S&P 500 rebounding from a five-session dive, as U.S. crude stopped a four-day skid and Germany left the door open to discussing options with Greece's next government on its debt.
The release of the Federal Reserve's December meeting minutes, which indicated the Fed wasn't ready to hike for at least the next couple of meetings, also helped sentiment. As a result, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.2 percent while the S&P 500 added 1.2 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 1.3 percent.
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Brent crude extended gains in early Asian trade to hold above $51 a barrel, bolstered by data showing the U.S. economy remained resilient amid slowing global growth. U.S. crude rose 57 cents to $49.22 after touching a peak of $49.65.
"There is still a glut in supply amid increasing production from various countries... but i think what has happened is that it's oversold on a fundamental basis," Andrew Su, CEO of Compass Global Markets, told CNBC this week.
"With the selloff way overdone, we are starting to accumulate long positions in crude oil now after being a bear for almost 2 years. We will see prices rising in the next quarter," he added.
Nikkei surges 1.7%
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index put up a robust performance on Thursday, helped by a weaker yen which traded at 119.87 against the greenback, compared to 118.9 in the previous session.
Exporter stocks were among gainers; carmakers Suzuki Motor scaled up 3 percent, while Honda and Toyota Motor closed up 2 percent, respectively.
Fast Retailing, owner of clothes brand Uniqlo, widened gains to 2.3 percent in the afternoon session before being halted ahead of the release of its first quarter results.
McDonald's Japan apologized to customers on Wednesday after objects including plastic and vinyl were found in its food. The fast food chain's stock settled 0.9 percent lower, after a 1 percent fall on Wednesday.
Sydney gains 0.5%
Australia's key S&P ASX 200 index finished higher on Thursday to snap a two-session losing streak.
Miners traded mixed on the back of slipping iron ore prices overnight. As Fortescue Metals closed down 2.6 percent, bigger counterparts like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton notched up 2.4 and 1 percent, respectively. Junior minor Arrium was the top gainer for Thursday, rocketing 16 percent, on bargain hunting.
Financials also rallied, on hopes for sooner-than-expected action from the European Central Bank, noted IG market strategist Stan Shamu. National Australia Bank rallied nearly 1 percent while Macquarie Group and Westpac Bank added 0.8 and 0.4 percent each.
Data showing a surprise rise of 7.5 percent in building approvals for November, beating expectations for a monthly fall of 3.5 percent, failed to inspire Australian builders. CSR led the sector by advancing 1.1 percent, while Bluescope Steel and Boral closed up nearly 1 percent.
The monthly indicator, however, boosted the Australian dollar from multi-year lows to fetch $0.8110 per dollar.
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Mainland indices mixed
China's benchmark Shanghai Composite index underperformed the region to retreat over 2 percent on Thursday, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added 0.7 percent.
Financials were among the biggest losers in Shanghai due to profit-taking; brokerages Huatai Security and Founder Securities plummeted more than 5 percent each. Citic Securities and Haitong Securities were not too far behind, with declines of 2.5 and 4 percent, respectively.
Oil-related counters were downbeat despite the pause in oil's fall. Sinopec and China Oilfield Services fell 4.6 and 3 percent, respectively, while PetroChina erased gains to close down 1.5 percent on Thursday.
In Hong Kong, Standard Chartered is in focus as a Reuters report said that the lender will dismantle its stock broking, equity research, and equity listing desks worldwide, which will result in more than 200 job cuts. Shares of the lender appeared unaffected to trade up 2.7 percent in the afternoon session.
Kospi adds 1.1%
Huge gains in index heavyweights helped South Korean shares to pull away from a more than one-year low of 1,876 points registered on Tuesday.
KB Financial Group led gains with a near 5 percent rise while Hyundai Motor, the second heaviest weighting stock on the Kospi index, closed up 4.7 percent.
In focus was Samsung Electronics, which said before trade opening that operating profit likely fell 37.4 percent in the October-December period to 5.2 trillion won ($4.74 billion), beating expectations. The guidance, released ahead of final fourth-quarter figures due around the end of January, was higher than a 5 trillion won estimate of 44 analysts polled by Reuters.
The above-view earnings guidance pushed shares of the electronics giant up by 0.5 percent.
Asia's calendar today
Sri Lanka will kick start its presidential elections on Thursday. The country's President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is running for a third time, is expected to see a tight race with his main challenger, former health minister Maithripala Sirisena.
Meanwhile, focus may fall on a shooting incident that took place on Wednesday at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's headquarters. At least 12 people were killed and around 20 more were injured, according to Reuters.