Japan led a strong rally, sweeping up most major stock markets in Asia. Tokyo's Nikkei index topped the 9,000 mark, closing at 9,104, up 1.2 percent.

Asian markets overall responded favorably to the cut in U.S. interest rates announced Wednesday, which was followed on Thursday by a strong performance of U.S. stocks.

Stewart Aldcroft, managing director of Investec Asset Management in Hong Kong, says an already falling dollar may also be driving Asian markets higher. "At some point the U.S. dollar will weaken, it has weakened somewhat over the past two months and a weaker U.S. dollar means weaker Asian currencies, which means increasing exports from Asia. And of course if you can increase exports from Asia, that's very good for the local economies," he says.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended half a percent higher. Australian shares climbed point seven percent, led by media conglomerate News Corp. The ASX closed at 3,048.

Taiwan shares fell slightly as investors sold early to take advantage of mid-day gains, which drove the weighted index down one-third of a percent to 4,877.

South Korea ended up point 2 percent from foreign buying in Hyundai Motor Company and other blue chip stocks. The KOSPI closed at 677.

Analysts say Asian markets have largely absorbed the impact of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and expect few surprises in the second half of the year. They say the financial costs of SARS have already been factored into stock prices.