The major markets across Asia-Pacific region advanced on Thursday morning, taking cues from Wall Street, where the major indices ended in positive territory despite concerns over corporate earnings on optimism that the economy, which has seen a slowdown in the downward momentum, will turn direction and start recovering earlier than expected. A deal announced in the housing sector and positive reaction to a speculation over the U.S. Treasury extending the TARP funding to the insurance sector helped the U.S. markets overlook the still-fluid economic conditions.

Speculation that the Japanese government is close to announcing a $154 billion stimulus package to revive the economy, and a decision by the Bank of Korea to keep interest rates frozen at 2% on indications that the fall in the economic activity has moderated of late, also weighed on market sentiment.

On Wednesday, the Dow closed up 47.55 points or 0.6% at 7,837, the Nasdaq closed up 29.05 points or 1.9% at 1,591 and the S&P 500 closed up 9.61 points or 1.2% at 825.16.

In Asian trading, crude oil ended $1.49 higher at $50.87 a barrel in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed up $0.23 at $49.38 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday after an Energy Information Administration data revealed a smaller-than-expected build in crude oil stockpiles from last week.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index gained 3.74% or 321.05 points to close at 8,916, and the broader Topix Index for all First Section Issues advanced 26.55 points to 842.

On the economic front, core machine orders in Japan unexpectedly rose 1.4% in February compared to the previous month, the government said on Thursday, marking the first increase in five months. That compares to analysts' expectations for a 6.9% decline after the 3.2% fall in the previous month. On an annual basis, core machine orders fell 30.1% - beating forecasts for a 36.7% decline after the 39.5% fall a month earlier.

Automakers ended higher following an announcement by the US Treasury Department that automakers GM and Chrysler have launched auto supplier support programs backed by up to $5 billion in U.S. government funds. Honda Motor gained 1.67%, Isuzu Motors rose 9.52% , and Toyota Motor gained 4.27%.

Among the major exporters, Canon added 5.47%, Sony gained 9.83% and Sharp soared 10.87% Trading houses also ended higher. Mitsubishi Corp. gained 4.01%, Sumitomo Corp. added 2.34% and Itochu added 3.32%.

Oil stocks ended in positive territory. Inpex edged up 0.43%,, Showa Shell added 0.90% and Nippon Oil gained 0.22%.

Financials also ended in positive territory following a report in the newspapers that the major banks in the U.S would pass the stress test. Mitsubishi UFJ soared 6.97%, Mizuho Financial surged 10.05%, Sumitomo Mitsui advanced 5.25%and Resona Holdings gained 5.47%.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index gained 52.10 points, or 1.44% to 3,672, and the broader All Ordinaries index advanced 50 points, or 1.40% to 3,617.

On the economic front, Australia's jobless rate jumped 0.5 percentage points to a seasonally adjusted 5.7% in March, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said earlier in the day, hitting a five-year high. That was higher than analyst expectations for a jobless rate of 5.5% after 5.2% in February. The bureau also reported that the number of employed Australians decreased by a greater-than-expected 34,700 to 10,771,800. Most economists had forecast an overall job loss of 25,000.

Bank stocks ended mixed. Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained 2.09%, investment bank Macquarie Group advanced 4.11% and ANZ Banking Group added 1.96%. However, National Australia Bank fell 0.88% and Westpac edged down 0.05%.

In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton gained 2.11%, and Rio Tinto advanced 1.87%. Gold miners ended weaker. Lihir Gold fell 0.66%, Sino Gold lost 1.92% and Newcrest Mining slipped 0.03%.

Oil-related stocks gained on rising crude oil prices. Woodside Petroleum advanced 1.39%, and Oil Search edged up 1.92%, and Santos added 0.36%.

In the retail sector, David Jones rose 4.55%, Woolworths gained 0.79% and Wesframers edged up 0.80%.

In Seoul, the benchmark KOSPI Index gained 4.30% or 54.28 points to close at 1,316..

On economic front, the central bank of South Korea kept the 7-day repo rate unchanged at 2.0% at the conclusion of the monthly policy meeting. The Bank stated the fall in economic activity has somewhat moderated of late. Analysts were anticipating the rates to be kept unchanged.

Meanwhile, Korea Credit Guarantee Fund, the state-run credit guarantee agency, in a statement revealed that in an effort to ease credit crunch, it is planning to sell up to 1 trillion won, equivalent to $475 million, in debts backed by a pool of bonds issued by smaller companies in the country with relatively low ratings.

Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics advanced 4.13%. Among the other technology stocks, Hynix Semiconductor added 0.61%, LG Electronics advanced 3.68%, and LG Display gained 2.86%.

Financials also gained on reports that the U.S banks would pass the stress test. KB Financial Group surged 7.21%, Shinhan Financial soared 8.51% and Woori Finance rose 14.96%.

Among shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries gained 2.76%, Samsung Heavy Industries advanced 5.20% and Daewoo Shipping added 4.35%.

In the auto space, Hyundai Motor soared 8.80%, and Kia Motor gained 5.90%. However, Ssangyong Motor, which announced a restructuring plan yesterday, declined 4.02%

The benchmark Hang Seng Index advanced 2.95% or 426.55 points to end at 14,901.

Bank stocks ended higher. HSBC Holdings gained 5.27%, Hang Seng Bank advanced 1.03%, Bank of Communications rose 4.30%, Bank of China added 4.40% and Bank of East Asia moved up 2.74%. Other banks also ended in positive territory.

Insurance stocks posted gains. Ping An surged 7.71% and China Life advanced 4.89%

Among property stocks, Henderson Land advanced 1.82%, Wharf Holdings rose 3.60%, SHK Properties added 2.70%, New World Development gained 3.90% and Hang Lung Property moved up 4.12%..

Resource stocks also posted gains. Aluminum Corporation of China, or CHALCO, advanced 5.14%, CNOOC rose 3.56% and PetroChina added 3.15%..

Among China-related stocks, China Resources edged up 0.17%, China Overseas advanced 5.72%, and PetroChina gained 3.15%.

Among the other major markets in the region, China's Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.38% or 32.49 points to 2,380, Singapore's Strait Times Index advanced 41.01 points, or 2.30% to 1,825 and Taiwan's Weighted Index rose 224.24 points or 4.12% to 5,668.

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