Analysts said an unexpected decision by the US Federal Reserve to cut interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point had helped restore confidence and prompted a round of bargain hunting among investors.

 

But it remains to be seen how long that confidence will last, with an early bounce on several markets quickly slowing further into Wednesday's session.

 

Like much of Asia, markets in Japan saw an initial boost to Wednesday's trading, with the benchmark Nikkei up 3.35 per cent by midday.

 

But those early gains were pared back later in the day with the Nikkei up 0.79 per cent by the middle of the afternoon session.

 

Shares in Shanghai also saw an initial spike quickly evaporate, with the benchmark Composite Index down 0.6 per cent at midday, its lowest level since early August.

 

Brokers said nervous investors quickly booked profits after the market began the day up more than 2 per cent.

 

Shanghai-listed shares in Bank of China fell 8 per cent, despite gains by its Hong Kong-listed shares after the bank issued a statement overnight rejecting reports it could report an overall loss for 2007 as a result of writedowns on US sub-prime mortgage securities.

 

On Tuesday the Shanghai Composite ended down by 7.22 per cent.

 

Hong Kong meanwhile managed to hold on to much of its early gains, with the Hang Seng up 5.53 per cent by midday, lifted by property stocks after the territory's financial authority cut its own interest rates, making mortgages cheaper for home buyers.

 

Indian shares also opened Wednesday's session higher, with the benchmark Sensex index up 4.6 per cent.

 

A day earlier the index slid by almost 10 per cent in early trading, triggering an automatic one hour halt to trading.

 

Overall Indian markets have fallen more than 19 per cent in the previous seven trading sessions on fears that the US economy, a key market for Indian exports and outsourcing contracts, will shrink this year.

 

'Risks to growth'

 

Tuesday's US rate cut  - its biggest in more than 23 years - lifted markets in the US, Europe and Latin America, after stocks had plummeted around the world over fears of a US recession.

 

"The committee took this action in view of a weakening of the economic outlook and increasing downside risks to growth," the Federal Reserve said.

 

US stock markets rallied in response, with the Dow Jones closing Tuesday's session down by just over 1 per cent after starting the day almost 5 per cent down.

 

Reporting from New York Al Jazeera correspondent John Terrett said the Federal Reserve's move was to send a message that the leadership of the US economy was prepared to pull out all the stops to prevent a recession.