| Updated at: 0957 PST, Thursday, January 13, 2011|
HONG KONG: Asian stock markets mostly pushed higher on Thursday with Tokyo hitting an eight-month high, amid worldwide relief at a respite in Europe's debt crisis and signs of the US economy perking up.
Tokyo's Nikkei index rose 0.64 percent by lunch after peaking at 10,620.57 in the morning, Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.48 percent, Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 1.25 percent, while Shanghai's Composite index was down 0.20 percent.
The gains followed rallies on both European and US markets following a successful bond auction by embattled eurozone member Portugal, even though many observers predicted the country would eventually require a bailout.
A bond auction by Spain later Thursday was seen as another crucial test of the eurozone's ability to stave off massive debt contagion.
The euro currency was holding firm, giving particular cheer to Japanese exporters. Europe's sovereign debt problems "will take a long time to resolve, but a weaker yen (against the euro) after the Portugal auction is providing relief for now", Masayoshi Yano, a senior market analyst at Meiwa Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.
The euro was holding above $1.31, easing to $1.3122 in Tokyo morning trade from $1.3128 in New York late Wednesday. The single currency rose to 109.04 yen from 108.95 yen.
The dollar edged down to 83.09 yen from 83.23.
In Hong Kong, gains were led by global banking giant HSBC, which was up 1.3 percent in the morning, echoing strong performances for US and European banking stocks.
Analysts said Sydney's rise in the face of Australia's massive floods suggested the market had for now priced in the expected cost of the damage, which covers a vast area larger than Texas.
New data also showed that Australian unemployment dropped to 5.0 percent in December, its lowest level in two years.
US stock markets rose Wednesday to their best finishes since 2007-2008, buoyed by Portugal's bond auction and jumps in banking and energy stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.72 percent to 11,755.44, its highest closing level since August 11, 2008.
The broader S&P 500 gained 0.90 percent to reach 1,285.96, a level last seen at the end of August 2008. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 0.75 percent to 2,737.33, its best close since November 2007.
Wall Street was also helped by relatively positive data in the US Federal Reserve's Beige Book economic update. The Fed report concluded that the US economy expanded "moderately" in November and December.
Oil prices rose for a fourth consecutive day in Asia on a sharp slump in US crude stockpiles, a strengthening greenback and forecasts of cold weather in the United States, analysts said. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for February delivery, gained six cents to $91.92 a barrel. Brent North Sea crude for February was up 24 cents to $98.36.
Gold opened at $1,386.00-$1,387.00 an ounce in Hong Kong, up slightly from Wednesday's close of $1,385.50-$1,386.50.