File picture: Alex Grimm

Asian markets mostly rose Thursday on a positive lead from Wall Street but gains were capped by low expectations of a breakthrough at a key EU summit on the spiralling eurozone debt crisis.

Despite fears that divisions could scupper efforts to save the single currency at the European Union meeting which begins later, the euro climbed against the dollar while holding steady against the yen.

Tokyo closed up 1.65 percent, or 143.62 points, to 8,874.11, while Hong Kong was 0.16 percent higher in afternoon trade.

Seoul was flat, edging up 0.08 percent, or 1.53 points, to close at 1,819.18, while Sydney added 0.04 percent, or 1.62 points, to end at 4,044.8. Shanghai slipped 0.16 percent in afternoon trade.

Providing some respite from the eurozone gloom, shares in Malaysian palm oil giant Felda Global jumped almost 19 percent on its stock market debut, while Australian stock in News Corp. rose on a report about its split.

But investors across the region were largely cautious ahead of the two-day EU summit.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel flew to Paris late Wednesday for talks with French President Francois Hollande in an 11th-hour bid to bridge the gap between Europe's two biggest economies over how to solve the crisis.

She warned lawmakers in Berlin that there were “no quick, no easy” solutions, and no “magic formula” to end the problems in the 17-nation currency bloc.

The debt crisis has now forced five countries - Cyprus, Spain, Greece, Portugal and Ireland - to request aid.

With Italy, the eurozone's third economy, also threatened, the EU is under pressure from world leaders to deliver a convincing plan to prevent a collapse of the single currency, which would have massive global repercussions.

“The focus will be on Germany's fiscal stance regarding regional debt, and the latitude that... Merkel shows in her comments. But expectations from the summit are actually not that high,” said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities.

Data in the United States boosted markets, with a positive report on pending home sales for May, as well as a solid increase in durable goods orders.

At the close of trade Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 92.34 points (0.74 percent) at 12,627.01.

The S&P 500 index advanced 11.86 (0.90 percent) to 1,331.85, while the tech-rich Nasdaq rose 21.26 (0.74 percent) to 2,875.32.

Shares in Felda Global jumped 18.46 percent on its stock market debut, in the world's second-largest IPO this year after Facebook.

The company's stock opened at 5.39 ringgit ($1.69) on the Bursa Malaysia, well up from the institutional price of 4.55 ringgit in the flotation.

In Sydney, News Corp. stock jumped 3.51 percent Thursday on a Wall Street Journal report that the Rupert Murdoch company's board had agreed in principle to separate its entertainment division from struggling publishing businesses.

The rise brought the shares' rally to eight percent since news of the split emerged earlier this week.

On oil markets, New York's main contract, light sweet crude for August delivery, was 30 cents higher at $80.51 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for August delivery was one cent up at $93.51 in afternoon trade.

On currency markets, the euro fetched $1.2511 and 99.39 yen, from $1.2467 and 99.38 yen in New York late Wednesday. The dollar was changing hands at 79.42 yen against 79.71 yen.

Gold was at $1,574.70 an ounce at 09:00 SA time, compared with $1,566.96 an ounce late Wednesday.

In other markets:

- Taipei slipped 0.19 percent, or 13.40 points, to 7,169.61.

Smartphone maker HTC ended 0.27 percent lower at TW$375.0 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co added 0.76 percent at Tw$79.9.

- Wellington rose 0.40 percent, or 13.57 points, to 3,401.34. Fletcher Building was up 2.42 percent at NZ$5.93, Chorus rose 0.32 percent to NZ$3.12 and Telecom Corp. was down 1.64 percent at NZ$2.40. - Sapa-AFP