Shares in Tokyo rose for a second straight session Friday amid speculation that the government may intervene in the market to try to boost stocks.
Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei Average climbed in afternoon trading Friday, after the Ministry of Finance announced it may provide almost $15 billion to a state stock-buying fund. The fund would purchase poor-performing banking shares to keep stock prices from falling further.
Regional financial analyst Henry Lee in Hong Kong says bank shares led the surge on hopes that the government would more actively pursue ways to resolve the institutions' bad-loan problems. Mizuho Holdings the world's biggest banking group by assets rose nearly half a percent Friday, building on Thursday's gain of nearly 20 percent. "Japan is still very much driven by government intervention," he said. "This stock fund to buy holdings from banks is a market-supporting measure. So, banks obviously had the largest rally in the market, averaging over 10 percent rise in the last two days." Investor sentiment also got a boost from expectations that Japan's ailing financial system will come up for serious discussion at the upcoming Group of Seven meeting in Ottawa, Canada. The Nikkei closed the week 1.7 percent higher at 9,686.
Other major markets in the region also posted gains. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained slightly more than 1 percent Friday to close at 10,518. Analysts say better-than-expected economic news from the United States this week helped overall investor sentiment.
In Singapore, stocks advanced with Singapore Telecommunications setting a positive tone. The phone giant released business results that met analysts' expectations. The Straits Times Index was up 0.8 percent to 1,730.
Seoul's benchmark Kospi also edged higher Friday closing at 739 - up more than 1.5 percent. Shares of Hyundai Motor shot up after South Korea's top carmaker reported a 75 percent jump in net profit last year.
Australian stocks gained slightly more than 1 percent and Manila's PSE Composite closed up 0.3 percent. The Composite index has gained 17 percent this year, making it the best performer so far in the region.
Taiwan's stock market was closed Friday for the Lunar New Year holiday.