RTTNews - Stock prices surged higher in the Japanese market on Friday as investors tracked overnight Wall Street cues. Mirroring the buoyant mood, the Nikkei hit its highest intra-day levels since early October 2008 when it rose to 10,089.15.

Currently, the Nikkei is trading at 10,076.51, up 95.18 points or 0.95% over its previous close. After crossing the 10,000 mark for the first time in eight months on Thursday, the Nikkei gave up its gains and had ended 10.16 points down at 9,981.33.

Amid hopes the U.S. economic downturn is nearing bottom following fewer claims for jobless benefits and a slight rise in May retail sales, Japanese investors are seen picking up stocks with renewed vigor this morning. A solid U.S. long-term Treasury auction, which allayed recent fears over rising interest rates, is also contributing to the positive sentiment. With crude oil prices trending higher, resource-related stocks are in demand once again.

Shares of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries were bid-only on Friday morning before they rose by over 8% as investors focused on green technologies. The firm is reportedly planning to construct a coal gasification power plant in Australia that will emit far less carbon dioxide than conventional facilities of that type. The stock is currently trading up 6.3% over its previous close.

Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan is moving up sharply on reports that group operating profit likely rose around 130% year-on-year to over 2.5 billion yen in the December-May term, surpassing the firm's earlier projection of 1.7 billion yen.

Meanwhile, a likely operating loss of about 20 billion yen has sent NEC Electronics down into the red this morning. The stock is currently trading down by 2.7%. The firm, which had reported a 1.7 billion yen operating profit a year earlier, is now set to report operating losses for the fourth consecutive quarter.

In the currency market, the yen is currently trading at 97.72 to the U.S. dollar. Earlier this morning, the U.S. dollar traded at the mid-97 yen level, almost unchanged from its levels overnight in New York. In early trades, the U.S. currency fetched 97.53-58 yen against 97.58-68 yen in New York and 97.82-85 yen in Tokyo at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Aided by better-than-expected retails sales and jobless claims data, Wall Street ended Thursday's session with modest gains. The Dow closed up 31.90 points or 0.4 percent at 8,770.92, the Nasdaq closed up 9.29 points or 0.5 percent at 1,862.37 and the S&P 500 closed up 5.74 points or 0.6 percent at 944.89.

Stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region had ended largely unchanged on Thursday. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed up by less than a tenth of a percent.

Major European markets all closed higher following some early uncertainty. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 and the French CAC 40 Index both rose 0.6 percent, while German DAX Index closed up 1.1 percent.

Crude oil added to its best close since October as the International Energy Agency raised its demand expectations for the year. Light sweet crude oil for July delivery settled at US$72.68 per barrel, up US$1.35 for the day, extending its highest close since October. Earlier in the day, oil reached as high as US$73.23.

With key reports like the Reuters/University of Michigan's initial reading on consumer sentiment for the month of June and the Labor Department's note on import and export prices for the month of May to be released later on in the day, the mood is likely to be somewhat cautious today.

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