The major markets across the Asia-pacific region are trading higher on Friday morning, taking cues from Wall Street, where the markets ended higher, led by technology stocks on increasing optimism that the efforts initiated by the U.S. Government will help in reviving the economy earlier than expected. Some degree of profit taking is also being witnessed in the markets after a strong rally in the past few trading sessions.

On Thursday, the Dow closed up 174.75 points or 2.3% at 7,925, the Nasdaq closed up 58.05 points or 3.8% at 1,587 and the S&P 500 closed up 18.98 points or 2.3% at 833.

In the U.S, investors were encouraged by better-than-expected earnings from big consumer brands and strong demand for government debt at the Treasury Department's auction of $24 billion worth of seven-year notes that helped to ease some of the recent concerns about the government's ability to fund its economic stimulus programs.

Despite broader weakness in the U.S. economy, hopes of recovery are slowly replacing the outright pessimistic outlook about the strength of the economy and the market sentiment is changing for the better.

In Asian trading, crude oil is currently down $0.27 at $54.07 a barrel, in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed at $54.34 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up $1.57 on the session.

In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is advancing 29.37 points to 8,666 and the broader Topix Index of all First Section Issues is adding 7.80 points to 835.

On the economic front on Friday, a report revealed that consumer prices in Japan for the year to February were little changed. The government reported that the core consumer price index was unchanged in February from one year earlier, while the overall CPI was down 0.1% year-on-year. The report showed that overall inflation was down 0.3% compared to one month earlier.

Core consumer prices in the Tokyo metropolitan region were up 0.4% in March following a 0.6% increase in February. Tokyo's overall CPI was up 0.3% year-over-year. Tokyo data is considered a leading indicator of the nationwide trends.

Meanwhile, retail sales in Japan plummeted by 5.8% in February when compared to a year earlier, according to government data. The decline was the sharpest in 7 years and the fifth straight month of lower retail sales. The government noted that the year-over-year decline is partly attributable to the leap year adding an extra business day to last year's calendar. Sales by large-scale retailers were down 8.2% following an upwardly revised decline of 5.5% in January.

Banking stocks are trading higher. Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan's biggest bank, is gaining 1.67%. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Morgan Stanley said they would merge their Japanese brokerage units by the end of March 2010. MUFG is slated to get a 60% stake in the new brokerage, with Morgan Stanley taking 40%.

Meanwhile, Sumitomo Mitsui is adding 1.26% and Resona Holdings is edging down 0.07%. Shares of Mizuho Financial are up 0.43%. The company plans to reduce its shareholdings by about 20% next business year to lessen its exposure to stock market fluctuations, according to media reports. Brokerage Nomura Holdings is advancing 1.26%.

Exporters are trading higher on the back of a weaker yen. Canon is rising 3.88% and Sony is adding 0.22%. Among automakers, Toyota is gaining 2.48% and Honda is advancing 2.32%. Honda said Thursday that an assembly plant under construction in Japan would not come on stream until 2012 or later. The factory was originally slated to open in 2010, but was delayed by more than one year to 2011 or later.

Oil-related stocks are trading higher after crude oil price surged up overnight. Inpex is adding 1.12%, Nippon Oil is rising 2.08% and Showa Shell is gaining 2.08%. Meanwhile, among trading houses, Mitsubishi Corp. is up 3.28% and Sumitomo Corp. is adding 0.43%. Itochu is unchanged.

Property firms are gaining following media reports that Japan's ruling coalition is considering plans to set up an investment fund of 1 trillion yen that will use money raised from the public and private sectors to buy properties held by real estate investment trusts and make loans to REITs. Mitsui Fudosan is up 4.80% and Mitsubishi Estate is gaining 2.12%.

In Sydney, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is gaining 19 points to 3,665, and the broader All Ordinaries index is up 22 points to 3,609. Mining stocks are advancing, helping to offset losses among other stocks.

In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton is gaining 1.57% and Rio Tinto is surging up 5.80%. Gold miners were stronger, after gold closed higher for a second straight session on Thursday. Sino Gold is adding 0.36%, Newcrest Mining is gaining 2.45%, and Lihir Gold is rising 1.24%.

Among banking stocks, ANZ Banking Group is falling 1.55%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia is down 0.78%, and National Australia Bank is edging down 0.10%. Westpac is losing 1.63%, while investment bank Macquarie Group is gaining 2.05%.

Among energy stocks, Woodside is losing 0.73%, while Santos is rising 3.29%, and Oil Search is adding 2.16%.

In the retail sector, David Jones is losing 1.32%, while Coles' owner Wesfarmers is adding 0.75%, and Woolworths is gaining 1.07%.

The benchmark KOSPI Index in South Korea opened Friday's session higher at 1,249, compared to its previous of 1,244, and is currently trading at 1,244, up 0.10 points, or 0.01%.

Technology stocks and automakers are the major gainers in the early session. Hynix Semiconductor is advancing 9.4% and LG Display is advancing 1.22%. However, LG Electronics is edging down 0.12%. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is gaining 2.63%.

Among the automakers, Kia Motors is rising 4.75%, Hyundai Motor is gaining 3.91%, and Ssangyang Motor is advancing 5.99%.

Financials are trading mixed. While KB Financial Group, the holding firm of Kookmin Bank, is gaining 0.82%, Shinhan Financial and Woori Finance are trading lower by 0.72% and 2.30% respectively.

Shipbuilders are moving to the upside. Hyundai Heavy Industries is advancing 1.19%, Daewoo Ship building is gaining 0.44%, and Samsung Heavy Industries is edging up 0.18%.

Oil related stocks are trading weaker. S-Oil is down 0.44% and SK Holdings is losing 0.50%.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong opened Friday's session at 14,258 compared to its previous close at 14,109, and is presently trading at 14,166, up 0.40% or 56.83 points.

China-related stocks are moving to the upside. China Mercantile Holdings is rising 2.67%, Sinopec Corp. is gaining 1.00%, China Overseas is advancing 2.03%, and China Resources is moving up 0.32%.

Telecom stocks are trading higher. Hutchison Whimpoa is rising 0.71%, China Mobile is edging up 0.07% and Tencent Holdings is adding 0.72%.

Financial stocks are trading mixed in early trading. ICBC bank is gaining 1.70%, Bank of China is advancing 1.53% and Bank of Hong Kong is rising 1.83%. HSBC Holdings is up 0.58%. However, Hang Seng Bank is losing 0.12%, Bank of East Asia is down 0.25%, CCB is declining 0.42% and Bank of Communications is falling 1.37% on profit taking.

Insurance stocks are also trading mixed. While Ping An is gaining 0.10%, China Life is down 0.19%.

Among resource stocks, Aluminum Corporation of China, or Chalco, is gaining 2.29%, and CNOOC is rising 1.69%, while Petrochina is down 0.45%.

Among the other major markets, China's Shanghai Composite Index is moving up 12.77 points, or 0.54%, to 2,374, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index is gaining 41.25 points, or 2.91% to 1,461, and Taiwan's Weighted Index is rising 51.26 points, or 0.95%, to 5,348. However, Singapore's Strait Times Index is presently losing 20.59 points, or 1.17% to 1,743.

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