TOKYO -- With the customary eye on what happens in the world's biggest market, investors across Asia were overjoyed to see a rally in blue-chips that set a single-day record on the

Dow Jones Industrial Average


In Japan, the

Nikkei 225

index climbed 313.09 points, or 1.6%, to 19,566.32, while the


index, which includes all shares listed on the

Tokyo Stock Exchange's

first section, rose 28.65, or 1.7%, to 1674.22. The


small-cap index jumped 1.96, or 1.7%, to 115.79, while the Nikkei


shares rose 40.53, or 1.7%, to 2421.83. Japanese markets will be closed Monday for a national holiday.

Some hopeful signs on the economic front in Japan helped sentiment, as investors slowed down the urgency of their sales ahead of the March 31 fiscal year end. The

Economic Planning Agency

said the economy showed signs of an autonomous recovery, although demand still remained weak.


Nomura Research Institute

also chimed in and said the economy would grow by 0.3% in fiscal 1999, and 0.8% the following year. That may sound like a weak performance in other countries, but Japan has struggled in and out of recession for the past 10 years.

Blue-chips rallied, but most eyes were on tech shares, which until Wednesday had been brutally beaten over the past several weeks. Some are making a nice comeback, including



, up 80 yen, or 2.6%, to 3150 and



, up 60, or 2.1%, to 2980.


jumped 5800, or 5.9%, to 105,000 and


rose 27, or 3.1%, to 907. Toshiba said profits would likely drop by 30 billion yen for fiscal 1999, versus the previously expected loss of 50 billion yen.


(SNE) - Get Report

dropped 370, or 1.4%, to 26,640, beset by problems with its PlayStation2 game console. Some users of the console can view overseas DVD software, which could possibly breach copyright protection laws, local reports said.

Sony Computer Entertainment

said it was mulling a recall of some machines or parts, and will modify its software for future shipment.

Good news from the ruling

Liberal Democratic Party

emerged for firms looking to branch out into banking. An LDP panel approved plans by



and Sony to go ahead with their retail banking plans, which means the firms can now officially apply for a banking license next month. Ito-Yokado soared 790, or 12.7%, to 7000.

Japanese financial authorities continued to test the nerves of currency dealers as they checked with local financial institutions over when and how much Japanese investors were repatriating their foreign securities. Such sales have been one of the reasons for the currently strong yen. The repeated inquiries made dealers suspicious that another intervention could be on its way if the dollar-selling continued. The greenback stood at 105.96 yen.

Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

index jumped 723.99, or 4.4%, to 17,082.99 as investors favored blue-chips with Internet subsidiaries.


, the Internet spin-off of

Sun Hung Kai Properties


, locked in a good debut on the high-tech


market today, closing at HK$15.10 from an offering price of 10.38. Shares of the parent closed up 0.50 to 69.00.



rose 3.75, or 4.4%, to 89.75, while

China Telecom

(CHL) - Get Report

climbed 2.25, or 3.6%, to 65.00.

One more day of waiting for Saturday's presidential elections in Taiwan left investors with another day of market volatility. The


index closed up 80.51 to 8763.27 thanks to the massive buying spree from the government though its market stabilization fund. Local reports say the government has spent about NT$64 billion in the last four days to curb market volatility, with almost half of the total seen Thursday.

Experts say the market can rally if there is a victory by either Lien Chan or James Soong, the two candidates seen as more likely to keep Taiwan out of political and military confrontations with China. Things could get more tense if opposition candidate Chen Shui-bian wins, since he has in the past called for Taiwan's full independence from the mainland.