Asian stock markets advanced for the first time in five days on Friday as oil prices fell below $100 a barrel on easing concern about supply disruptions.
Tokyo shares gained first time in four days on Friday. Japanese benchmark index Nikkei gained 0.56 percent or 58.31 points to 10,511.13. Toyota Motor advanced 2.17 percent to 3,755 yen after boosted its investment rating on the carmaker to outperform from neutral and raised its target price to 4,520 yen.
Chinese Shanghai composite gained 0.24 percent or 7 points to 2,885.60 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 360.59 points or 1.60 percent to 22,961.63. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. surged 3.9 percent in Hong Kong and Bank of Communications gained 1.08 percent, while China Merchants Bank added 1.77 percent.
South Korean shares advanced, led by gains from automakers and construction players. Hyundai Motor gained 3.2 percent and Hyundai Engineering & Construction Ltd surged 6.62 percent.
Hynix, the world's second-largest maker of computer-memory chips, climbed 4.08 percent after LIG Investment & Securities Co. said contract prices for the chips may rise in March and analysts will increase their estimates of the company's first-quarter earnings.
U.S. stock markets ended mixed in a volatile session on Thursday as oil prices eased and encouraging job data helped the markets to stabilize in the final hours.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 37.28 points, or 0.31 percent, at 12,068.50. The S&P 500 index declined 1.30 points, or 0.10 percent, to 1,306.10. The NASDAQ composite index gained 0.55 percent.
Oil traders are citing unconfirmed rumors that Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi was shot to explain a sudden downward reversal in oil prices today. In New York, oil futures dropped 1.61 percent to settle at $96.49 per barrel.
However, U.S. officials denied the rumors and said it had no reason to believe Gaddafi was dead or even wounded. Meanwhile, violence in Libya is escalating, with anti-and pro-government forces reportedly battling in Tripoli and elsewhere. Anti-Gaddafi forces appear to have taken over much of the eastern part of the country, including the city of Benghazi and many oilfields.
The Department of Labor reported that initial jobless claims decreased by 22,000 to 391,000 for the week ended February 19 from the previous week's revised figure of 413,000, while economists expected 405,000. The 4-week moving average of initial claims declined 16,500 to 402,750 from the previous week's revised average of 418,500.
On the corporate front, shares of priceline.com Inc. (NASDAQ:PCLN) surged 8.53 percent as it guided first quarter earnings above Street view. The company expects first quarter adjusted earnings of $2.34 to $2.44 a share and revenue growth of 29 percent to 34 percent over last year, while Street predicts profit of $2.31 a share on revenue of $741.21 million with revenue growth of 26.80 percent.
European stock markets ended lower for the third day on Tuesday amid continuing political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Stoxx 600 declined 0.6 percent to 280.56. DAX30 declined 64 .10 points or 089 percent to 7,130.50, CAC 40 fell 3.48 points or 0.09 percent 4,009.64 and the FTSE 100 declined 3.55 points or 0.06 percent to 5,919.98.
Germany's second-largest utility firm RWE shares declined 4.47 percent after the company said its 2010 net income declined 7.4 percent and warned that its 2011 operating profit will decline by around 20 percent compared to last year.
Vallourec SA shares declined 6.6 percent to 72.55 as its fourth quarter net income fell short of expectations. Net income rose 6.7 percent to 107.7 million euros against analysts’ estimation of 131 million euros.
Shares of Royal Bank of Scotland declined 3.6 percent as its quarterly earnings fell short of analysts’ estimates. Pre-tax losses in the full year period were £239 million, down from a £1.9 billion loss reported in the previous year. The group said it had made an operating profit of two billion pounds, following an operating loss of £6.2 billion the previous year.
Vodafone Group PLC declined 1.36 percent and Barclays PLC fell 2.02 percent, while Prudential PLC plunged 3.61 percent.