Optimism in a US economic recovery pushed some stocks up in the Asia-Pacific region overnight after three days of declines, but many key gauges remained on the defensive.
By the close, Chinese shares ( YAO , quote ) were up 2%, their best performance in weeks.
In Japan, scandal-ridden Olympus continued its downward spiral, falling 3.6 percent as investors come to grips with the company's disclosure of a $1.1 billion dollar shortfall in its balance sheets.
South Korean automakers showed strength, with Kia stocks advancing 2.3% and Hyundai shares rising 2.5%.
Shares of Australian miner Rio Tinto ( RIO , quote ) rose 0.7% after a volatile week and will lend some support to the U.S. mining sector today.
Meanwhile, stocks in Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy, got a boost after Fitch upgraded the country to investment grade. Indonesia lost that status in December 1997 during the Asian financial crisis, when the rating agency downgraded the archipelago's economy to "junk" levels.
Asian and European currencies remained strong against the dollar. The Chinese yuan jumped to a record high of 6.3294 against the dollar after an intervention by China's central bank to buoy the currency. The yuan closed slightly lower in Asian trading at 6.3479.
By the afternoon, the euro appreciated 0.17% to $1.3039 against the dollar, while the British pound jumped 0.17% to $1.5537.