Asian trade: Asian markets rose tonight for the first time in the last four days, helped by an end of the day rally seen in the U.S. markets. The biggest gainers were banks and the retail companies, as the stimulus program may give hopes to private investors.

The U.S. markets closed yesterday barely above the break-even line, after a rally near the closing bell helped the S&P 500 recover from a 3% decline during the intra-day session. The rally came, as some rumors appear in the market that Obama’s administration is looking for ways to modify mortgages, in order to help homeowners stay in their homes.

A report is expected next week to show the Japanese economy shrank almost 3% in the fourth quarter, the most since the oil shock from the 1970’s. If this report holds true, the Japanese economy contracted much more than its European and U.S. counterparts did over the same period. The U.S. GDP shrank about 1%, but now everyone expects this number to be revised lower. Later in the day, a report is expected to show the European economy contracted 1.3% in Q4. The Japanese economy was dragged lower by its export market, which declined by 23.1% in the fourth quarter alone.

In Australia, the Senate approved the $28 billion stimulus program, after yesterday, the stimulus fell short of seven votes. After a round of negotiations and some adjustments brought to the original plan, the government managed to reach a compromise. According to a number of forecasts, the Australian economy will be able to avoid its first recession since 1991 because of this stimulus program.

Tonight, the Nikkei gained 113.60 points (1.47%) to 7,818.96. The Australian S&P rose 35.70 points (1.02%) to 3,550.00.

Crude oil rose slightly, after making a 7-weeks low earlier. Crude oil for March delivery rose $0.60 to $34.55.

Gold fell tonight for the first time in the last few days. Bullion for immediate delivery lost $7.50 to $941.70.

Previous Wall Street trade: At the close of floor trading on the NYSE, the DOW was on 7932.76 after falling 6.77 points (-0.09%) while the S&P finished on 835.19, up 1.45 points (0.17%). The technology-heavy NASDAQ fared the best in terms of its percentage gain, closing on 1541.71 after gaining 11.21 points (0.73%).