Japan's Nikkei average finished higher by 1.9% as contractors and exporters got a boost from support coming from Japan's main opposition leader, Shinzo Abe, for public spending and more monetary easing. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid by 1.55%.

Gold for December delivery settled down $16.30 at $1,713.80 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while January crude oil contracts lost 97 cents to close at $85.87.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up 1/32, diluting the yield to 1.591%. The dollar was down 0.05%, according to the U.S. dollar index .

In corporate news, PetSmart ( PETM) shares tacked on 4.1% after the pet supplies retailer hiked its full-year profit forecast after exceeding third-quarter earnings by 12 cents and booking consensus-topping same-store sales numbers.

Limited Brands ( LTD) shares fell 2.4% after the specialty retailer offer a revised full-year guidance that was below consensus expectations.

BP ( BP) American Depositary Receipts rose 0.35% after the oil behemoth said Thursday it's in advanced talks with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission about settling criminal and other claims from the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010.

Target ( TGT) shares rose 1.7% after the retailer reported third-quarter earnings that beat estimates by 12 cents and provided an upbeat outlook on the holiday shopping season. Revenue rose less than expected as sales growth slowed at stores open at least a year.

NetApp ( NTAP), the maker of storage and data management software, delivered a solid beat in its fiscal second quarter on Wednesday and also provided a robust outlook. Shares surged 11.2%.

Viacom ( VIAB) shares advanced 2.6% after the entertainment content company beat quarterly earnings estimates by 4 cents a share. Revenue came in a bit below expectations driven partly by a decline in filmed entertainment sales.

Diamond Foods ( DMND) shares plummeted 21.2% after the company restated its financial results for the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years, following its massive accounting scandal, wiping out $56.5 million in earnings. The company also indicated much weaker profit for the first three quarters of 2012.

--Written by Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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