Stocks rebounded Friday after two days of losses though investors remained wary ahead of elections in Italy that could dominate the market mood at the start of next week.
The pick-up comes after a sizeable sell-off, which started in the second half of Wall Street's trading session on Wednesday following the release of the minutes to the last policy meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve. The minutes sparked by fears the Fed would abandon its super-easy monetary policy sooner than many in the markets were predicting.
Those concerns about future U.S. monetary policy remain. And others have the potential to reignite the jitters. The Italian election, for one, which takes place Sunday and Monday, could stoke renewed worries over Europe's debt crisis — especially if there is a protracted period before a new government is formed.
"Global markets are seeing some legitimate bounce-back from yesterday's sell-off but remain fragile as the weekend Italian elections loom," said Sal Guatieri, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.7 percent at 6,335 while Germany's DAX rose 1.03 percent to 7,661. The CAC-40 in France was 2.25 percent higher at 3,706.
A solid German economic survey also shored up sentiment in Europe. The Ifo index rose to 107.4 in February from 104.3 the previous month. It was the fourth monthly increase in a row and well above the 104.9 points expected by financial market analysts.
A recovering Germany will go a long way to supporting economic growth across Europe, not least in the economy of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro. That hope helped European markets look beyond the latest forecast from the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, that the eurozone's recession will last longer than it previously thought.
"Better-than-expected German business confidence data helped contribute to gains," said Lee Mumford, financial sales trader at Spreadex.
In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.47 percent at 13,945 while the broader S&P 500 index rose 0.49 percent to 1,509. Both indexes are well down on the five-year highs they hit earlier this week.
Their retreat from highs came after the Fed minutes showed some policymakers worried about the cost of the bank's monetary stimulus, which triggered speculation that the asset purchases would end sooner than anticipated.
The purchases, commonly known as quantitative easing, are designed to boost the U.S. economy, partly by increasing liquidity in financial markets and by keeping a lid on interest rates in the bond markets.
Earlier, the Asian heavyweight, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index, recovered to gain 0.7 percent to 11,385.94. The region's biggest economy, China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.5 percent to 2,314.15. Elsewhere, Seoul's Kospi gained 0.2 percent to 2,018.89 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.5 percent to 22,782.44.
In other financial markets, trading was fairly light.
In currency markets, the euro was down 0.15 percent at $1.3172 while the dollar was steady at 93.29 yen. In the oil markets, benchmark crude for April delivery was down 22 cents at $92.62 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.