Nikkei gains 0.6%

Japan’s Nikkei 225 clinched a fresh high of 19,916 points – its highest level since June 2000.

Helping to prop up the bourse was index heavyweight Fast Retailing, which elevated nearly 2 percent. Other top performers include Japan Airlines, which rose 1.4 percent as fuel prices headed south, as well as Rakuten, which jumped 2.1 percent.

Exporters turned positive as dollar-yen bounced 0.1 percent higher to 120.29; Sony and Mitsubishi Electric notched up 1.7 and 0.9 percent, respectively, while Toyota Motor and Canon rebounded modestly.

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Mainland stocks mixed

China’s Shanghai Composite index opened down 0.2 percent, a whisker below Wednesday’s seven-year closing highs, while Hong Kong shares continued its upswing, surging nearly 5 percent at the open.

The Hang Seng index climbed 3.8 percent to its highest level since May 2008 in the previous session, boosted by strong buying from Chinese investors who used up the entire 10.5 billion yuan ($ 1.69 billion) daily investment quota in a cross-border program for the first time. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of Hong Kong-listed mainland companies soared 4.4 percent, hitting a four-year high.

Analysts say investors are seeking arbitrage profits from the massive valuation gap between Hong Kong and Shanghai shares in the same companies.

“With limited investment opportunities in China, investors act in unison [and] the trends can be unbelievable,” IG’s chief market strategist Chris Weston wrote in a note. “Daily chart of H-share is outright bullish. Perhaps we could see a slight retracement, but given the momentum, this could be a good buying opportunity.”

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Kospi adds 0.2%

South Korea’s Kospi index stayed at a more than 5-month high as the Bank of Korea (BOK) kept interest rates steady at 1.75 percent as expected.

Energy plays were significantly lower; GS Holdings sagged 2.8 percent, while SK Innovation and S-Oil shed below 1 percent each.

Hyundai Steel extended gains to rally 1.3 percent after announcing on Wednesday its plans to buy sister company Hyundai Hysco.