Asian markets rise, Hong Kong ahead after holiday

Asian markets rose on Thursday, with dealers looking ahead to an upcoming G20 meeting, while Hong Kong enjoyed healthy gains as dealers returned from a long break.

Tokyo shares climbed as the yen retreated again after posting strong gains on Wednesday, while there was little reaction to news Japan was stuck in recession as its economy shrunk for a third straight quarter in October-December.

Hong Kong, which was closed from Monday to Wednesday for Chinese New Year, added 0.75 percent in early trade as investors caught up with a regional advance over the same period.

Tokyo was up 0.37 percent, Sydney added 0.24 percent and Seoul was 0.10 percent higher.

Shanghai and Taipei are closed for public holidays.

Eyes are now on Moscow, where the world's 20 major economies will meet on Friday with concerns emerging of a possible global war in which nations weaken their currencies in order to boost exports.

"It will be one of the most important (G20 meetings) for quite some time in terms of markets," said Sean Callow, senior currency strategist at Westpac Institutional Bank in Sydney.

"The risk for currencies is whether there are strong comments from some of the many officials, with their different viewpoints," he told Dow Jones Newswires.

Talk has centred on Japan's recent drive to pump more cash into the markets to kickstart the economy and inflation, which has in turn sent the yen tumbling.

A statement from the Group of Seven top industrialised nations this week was said to have put a shot across Tokyo's bows, saying it supported market-driven moves in forex markets, sending the yen higher on Wednesday.

However, the unit on Thursday resumed its downward trend that began in November as dealers bet on aggressive monetary easing by the Bank of Japan.

In the morning the dollar bought 93.50 yen, compared with 93.46 yen in New York late Wednesday, while the euro fetched 125.80 yen, from 125.70 yen.

That compared with 92.85 yen to the dollar and 124.85 yen to the euro in Asia earlier Wednesday.

The euro also sat at $1.3453 against $1.3450.

The BoJ is due to wrap up a two-day policy meeting later Thursday, although it is not expected to make any new announcements after last month adopting a two percent inflation target and unveiling fresh easing measures.

Earlier Thursday Tokyo released data showing the economy contracted 0.1 percent in October-December from the previous quarter, and expanded just 1.9 percent in 2012 from the previous year, when Japan was hit by the quake-tsunami disaster.

Oil prices rose, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March increasing 13 cents to $97.14 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for April delivery rising 14 cents to $118.02.

Gold was at $1,644.70 by 0210 GMT, compared with $1,647.77 late Wednesday.