Asia Markets: Asian markets get off to fast start ahead of holiday

Asian stocks opened higher Thursday, following strong overnight gains in the U.S. and Europe, though trading in much of the region should be slow ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.

Chinese and South Korean markets are closed starting Thursday, joining Taiwan. Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia will see only a half-day of trading.

Japanese stocks were higher despite fresh gains for the yen, which had sent the Nikkei Stock Average to four-month lows on both Tuesday and Wednesday. The index NIK, +1.33% was up 1.6% at midmorning after having fallen in 12 of the prior 15 sessions.

Financials were among the big gainers as U.S.

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