Asian markets rebounded but were off their highs Thursday, boosted by Wall Street's rally Wednesday and a decline in oil prices, providing some relief from fears about the global credit crisis spiraling out of control. Japan closed 1 percent higher.
Shares of high-profile Asian exporters such as consumer electronics giant Samsung Electronics gained as lower energy prices comforted investors about the outlook for demand, while shares of Japan's largest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, gained 3 percent on hopes for the financial sector after surprisingly strong results at Wells Fargo helped ease credit-market worries.
Wells Fargo , the fifth-largest U.S. bank and the No. 2 U.S. mortgage lender, also raised its dividend, allaying some concerns about the health of financial institutions and sparking a rally on Wall Street.
Another sharp fall in oil prices brightened the outlook for company profits, though energy firms such as Japan's Nippon Oil fell.
Japan's Nikkei 225 Average finished 1 percent higher for its biggest gain in a month, buoyed by Nomura Holdings and other financials lifted by hopes for their U.S. peers after surprisingly strong results from a U.S. bank eased credit worries. Canon and other exporters climbed as the dollar rebounded against the yen, but gains were limited by continuing uncertainty about the global economy, which some market players said was underlined by Chinese data released on Thursday that showed its economy slowing.
Seoul shares closed higher with South Korea's flagship exporters in technology Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics and auto sectors leading the gains on easier oil and a rally in U.S. peers' rally, but financials cut their earlier gains on earnings worries.
Australian shares rose 0.6 percent, as Westpac Banking and the other big banks rallied after surprisingly strong results at a big U.S. bank helped soothe credit-market worries. However, weaker oil and metals prices pressured commodity firms such as BHP Billiton, keeping gains in check.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped 2.4 percent, with financial and energy stocks leading the rally after a big U.S. bank posted surprisingly strong results and oil prices fell further. Bank of China gained 0.9 percent, as investors shrugged off a report by CLSA that the Chinese lender may hold roughly $20 billion worth of bonds issued by troubled U.S. mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Singapore's Straits Times Index was 1.3 percent higher on gains in financials such as DBS Group Holdings and Singapore Exchange, and in property stocks.
China's Shanghai Composite Index bucked the region's rally and closed 0.8 percent lower as concerns over high inflation and slowing economic growth pushed stocks into negative territory. Annual gross domestic product growth slowedto 10.1 percent in the second quarter from 10.6 percent in the first and 11.9 percent in 2007, the government announced.