Asian equities rose on Thursday in subdued trading, holding the gains recently spurred by the US-China trade thaw.

Following the Christmas lull across world markets, eyes are now on US unemployment data due later in the day, and Japanese industrial and retail data scheduled for release on Friday.

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei index closed 0.6 percent higher after a flat start. Shanghai put on 0.9 percent, while Seoul was up 0.4 percent. Singapore, however, was down 0.3 percent.

"Investor sentiment towards the global economy is improving," said Rakuten Securities chief strategist Masayuki Kubota.

Hong Kong, Sydney and Wellington were closed for a public holiday.

"With the... tech sector giants leading the way, investors are showing no fear as the market remains underpinned by the thawing in the US-China trade squabble and easy central bank policy," Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader, said in a report.

Volumes are typically light during the holiday season, and the muted activity in Asia followed sleepy Christmas Eve sessions in many world markets.

"No news being good news, Asia should maintain... gains ahead of a US session likely to be positive," Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia-Pacific at OANDA, wrote in a note earlier in the day.

In oil markets, the main contracts traded higher as the commodity remained strong thanks to trade optimism as well as the OPEC+ output reduction agreement.

Brent Crude and West Texas Intermediate were both up 0.2 percent.

"Oil prices continue to show year-end strength supported by a combination of definitive progress on the US-China trade deal, the... OPEC/OPEC+ agreement, and slowing shale activity," wrote AxiTrader's Innes.

"All of which is pointing to a stronger performance for oil prices in Q1 than anyone had thought only two months ago."

World markets were spooked by the long-running, tit-for-tat trade war between the United States and China, with analysts warning that the bruising rift between the world's two biggest economies could harm global economic growth.

Asian markets have been largely quiet during the festive period, sustaining the gains sparked by US-China trade hopes
Asian markets have been largely quiet during the festive period, sustaining the gains sparked by US-China trade hopes AFP / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU

Washington and Beijing have agreed to an initial trade deal, which they are expected to finalise in January, and the improvement in ties has boosted markets with investors hoping for a smoother ride into the new year.

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.6 percent at 23,924.92 (Close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: Closed for a public holiday

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.9 percent at 3,007.35 (Close)

Pound/dollar: FLAT at $1.2991

Euro/pound: UP at 85.37 pence from 85.35 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1091 from $1.1087

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.55 from 109.56

Brent Crude: UP 12 cents at $67.32 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 13 cents at $61.24 per barrel

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,632.24 (Tuesday close)

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.1 percent at 28,515.45 (Tuesday close)