Japan's Nikkei stock index surged 2. 11 percent Thursday as robust manufacturing data from China and the yen's retreat from three-week highs combined to lift the market mood and spurred buying.
Participation was solid in a day that saw the Nikkei score its biggest daily gain since April 16, but analysts said for the month of May trade has been a largely lackluster and may end up being the thinnest trading month this year.
But buying got off to a positive start traders said, mirroring Wall Street's closing high overnight, which itself was buoyed by the U.S. Federal Reserve saying after its latest policy meeting that they're in no hurry to raise interest rates.
"The Fed minutes were in line with expectations. They remain dovish as the outlook for the economy continues to be as tough as it was in March," Mitsushige Akino, an officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co. said.
Buying here was also encouraged by data showing that manufacturing in China had increased in May from a month earlier.
According to HSBC's preliminary purchasing managers' index ( PMI), Chinese manufacturing activity saw a sharp improvement in May, hitting a five-month high, with the figures coming in at 49.7 this month, well up from a final reading of 48.1 in April and evidence that the activity in the factories and workshops of the world's largest economy is increasing.
"The China report is a positive surprise, especially after a series of negative data recently," said Soichiro Monji, chief strategist at Daiwa SB Investments Ltd. "There was a big uncertainty over China up to yesterday, but today's data raises hopes that things will get better."
Takashi Hiroki, a chief strategist at Monnex, added that, "the Chinese data was a trigger for shares to rise sharply."
The Nikkei Stock Average gained 295.62 points from Wednesday to close at 14,337.79, while the broader Topix index added 19.29 points, or 1.68 percent, to finish at 1,169.34.
China-linked issues found traction Thursday, with Daikin gaining 2.9 percent to 5,759 yen, while Alps Electric Co. jumped 3. 1 percent to 1,160 yen. Industrial equipment maker Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. leapt 5.1 percent to 2,536 yen, following JPMorgan Chase & Co. raising its rating on the firms stock to "neutral."
Among exporters, Toyota Motor climbed gained 2 percent to 5,526 yen, while Honda Motor added 1.9 percent to 3,473 yen. Nissan, meanwhile, increased 1.3 percent to 908 yen and Panasonic Corp. gained 1.9 percent to close at 1,065 yen.
Japan's brokerage issues staged a comeback Thursday, with Nomura Holdings advancing 3.9 percent to 647 yen and Daiwa Securities Group jumping 4 percent to close at 783 yen.
Sanrio, producer of Hello Kitty and other Japanese cute products, was very much in the spotlight Thursday, tumbling 16 percent to 2,598 yen, on fears of falling sales in U.S. markets.
Kansai Electric Power Co., Japan's second-biggest utility, was another notable decliner Thursday, dropping 4 percent to 902 yen, after a court ruled against restarting its two reactors. The Fukui District Court said the need for nuclear power is less important than individuals' rights to safety.
Trading volume on Thursday rose to 2.34 billion shares, on the Tokyo Exchange's First Section, up from Wednesday's volume of 1. 79 billion shares, with advancing issues outnumbering declining ones by 1,619 to 140.