Japan's Nikkei share average has jumped nearly 2 per cent to its highest level in more than a week, after the leader of Japan's main opposition party, seen as likely to become premier after an election next month, called for more monetary policy easing.

The call by Shinzo Abe, a former prime minister, for the central bank to push interest rates to zero or below zero to spur lending has pushed the yen to a 6-1/2 month low, sending shares in exporters sharply higher.

Exporters had been battered by worries about the US fiscal cliff and Europe's debt crisis and several jumped more than 5 per cent including Canon, Nikon and Nissan Motor.

"We see a little bit of our flows picking up today," says Mattia Ciancaleoni, director of equity sales at Citigroup.

At the midday break, the Nikkei was 166 points higher at 8,995.91 for a third straight day of gains. The index hit 9,006.87 in the morning session, its highest level since November 7. The broader Topix index climbed 1.6 per cent to 748.92.

Recent climbs have come on the back of healthy volumes, with 1.24 billion shares changing hands on the Topix at the midday break. Volume on the Topix hit a two-month high on Thursday, with 2.2 billion shares changing hands.

"Japanese shares have been underperforming their global peers, so investors may take this domestic trading cue as a chance to chase the market higher," said Kenji Shiomura, an analyst at Daiwa Securities.

The benchmark is up 6.4 per cent so far this year but lags a 7.1 per cent rise in the S&P/ASX200, a 7.6 per cent rise in the US S&P 500 and an 8.6 per cent gain in the pan-European STOXX Europe 600.

The yen steadied in early Asian trading on Friday. The US dollar last traded at 81.12 yen after rising as high as 81.46 yen on Thursday on trading platform EBS, its highest level since late April.

Big gainers included PGM Holdings KK, Japan's No. 2 golf course operator, which jumped 11 per cent to a four-year high on plans to launch a tender offer to win control of bigger rival Accordia Golf Co, as it seeks to boost profit in a stagnant market.

Brewer Kirin Holdings sagged 3.1 per cent to a three-month low after a consortium led by Overseas Union Enterprise Ltd said Kirin will offer to buy Fraser and Neave Ltd's food and beverage business for S$2.7 billion ($2.2 billion) if OUE's bid for F&N is successful.

Investors will be watching Friday's meeting at the White House between President Barack Obama and Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress over deficit reduction for a sign the two sides are moving closer.

Reuters