SINGAPORE (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks rose for the first time in four sessions Thursday, as risk appetite showed signs of returning amid easing concerns about tensions between North Korea and the U.S.
The Nikkei Asia300 Index added 0.6% or seven points to 1,158.98. Tencent Holdings contributed most to gains on the 316-stock gauge, rising 2.8%.
In an indication that risk appetite was returning, safe-have assets gold and U.S. Treasury notes retreated. Prices of the yellow metal have risen 2.5% this month and U.S. 10-year Treasury yields have fallen 16 basis points as investors flocked to safety after U.S. missile strikes in Syria were followed by rising military tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.
Still, investors remain cautious ahead of French presidential elections set to kick off this Sunday. Markets are concerned about a possible victory for far-right candidate Marine Le Penn, who is anti-immigration and has vowed to take France out of the European Union.
The country gauge for China rose 1.2% to 1,108.81, while Hong Kong's index added 1% to 1,094.76. Beijing's move to cut taxes on businesses and individuals by about 380 billion yuan ($55 billion) this year to spur growth and boost spending in Asia's largest economy helped boost investor mood after a regulatory clampdown sparked a four-day selloff in Chinese equities.
China Unicom (Hong Kong) added 2.6% after German automotive supplier Continental AG said it and a unit of the mobile operator agreed to set up a Shanghai-based joint venture to offer intelligent transport systems.
ZTE surged 6.3% in Hong Kong. The telecom-equipment maker appointed the head of its U.S. operations Cheng Lixin as president of its mobile devices business, Reuters reported. Trading in the company's A-shares is halted pending an announcement related to a stock incentive plan.
China Vanke slipped 0.5%. The property developer has agreed to buy a stake in Chinese real estate agency Lianjia for 3 billion yuan, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the company.
The Nikkei Asia300 South Korea Index rose 0.5% to 1,235.07. Lotte Shopping shares jumped 4.5% for their best single-session advance since February.
Foreign investors bought 74.9 billion won ($65.8 million) in local shares Thursday, while domestic institutions purchased 224 billion won, according to Reuters.
Taiwan's index added less than 0.1%. Data released Thursday showed the nation's export orders rose 12.3% in March, ahead of expectations, but lower than February's 22% increase. For the first quarter, export orders were up 12.6%.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, the world's largest contract chipmaker, rose 0.3%.
Malaysia's gauge rose 0.4% to 1,037.37, led by a 1.9% advance in Astro Malaysia Holdings.
Public Bank, Malaysia's third-largest lender by assets, was unchanged at 19.92 ringgit after reporting a net income growth of 1.6% in the first quarter from a year earlier, helped by higher net interest income and better Islamic banking business.
Sapura Energy slipped 0.5%, weighed by the overnight fall in crude oil.
Neighboring city-state Singapore's index rose 0.2%. United Overseas Bank and DBS Group Holdings, down at least 2.2% each in the last four trading days, rose 1% and 0.6%, respectively. Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. added 0.7%, after falling 1.8% for four days through Wednesday.
The Nikkei Asia300 India Index added 0.4% to 1,160.91. Tata Consultancy Services advanced 1.2%, as investors bought into the stock that had fallen for the last seven sessions. Infosys rose 1%, its first advance in five days.
--Kevin Lim and Nimesh Vora
--Nikkei Markets is a real-time financial news service for South East Asia's markets published by Nikkei NewsRise Asia Pte Ltd, a Nikkei and NewsRise joint venture company. Nikkei Markets provides wide companies coverage in the region, including the Nikkei's Asia300 companies.