By Agence France-Presse
But analysts warned the tepid uplift in New York Wednesday should not be interpreted as a sign of the start of a recovery from the recent carnage on global stock markets.
Investor sentiment remains fragile following the volatility that has swept markets since October, while the OECD has warned the world economy has peaked and faced a slowdown as it confronts the Trump administration's trade war and tighter monetary conditions.
Crude prices resumed their downward trajectory Thursday, after a brief recovery on Wednesday.
Crude prices have fallen by almost 30 percent from four-year highs touched at the start of October. Oil analysts attribute the pullback to high supply as well as a weakening global growth outlook.
"This half-hearted recovery effort should not be confused with anything other than pre-holiday scramble doing little more than what amounted to chasing oil prices," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trade at OANDA.
"But with the overwhelming consensus suggesting we're not even close to being out of the weeds yet, it's down to the US retail sector to provide a lifeboat to investors as the markets pivots."
The Nikkei was flat, with fresh data suggesting the world's third-largest economy is continuing to struggle in its years-long battle with deflation.
Inflation in Japan stood at one percent in October, unchanged from the previous month, according to government data.
Japan has battled deflation for many years and the central bank's ultra-loose monetary policy appears to have had limited impact.
Late last month, the Bank of Japan again revised down inflation forecasts, in the latest sign it had failed to make headway towards its two-percent target despite years of massive monetary easing.
Shares in Nissan rose slightly by the break as the car firm's board members prepared to decide later in the day whether to oust Carlos Ghosn as chairman, after his spectacular arrest for financial misconduct sent shockwaves through the car industry and the business world.
Ghosn stands accused of under-reporting his income by millions of dollars and a host of other financial irregularities, in a stunning fall from grace for the once-revered titan of the auto sector.
The arrest has sparked questions over whether the alliance of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors can survive without Ghosn, seen as the glue holding together his fractious creation, which globally employs around 450,000 people.
Elsewhere, Hong Kong was flat, Shanghai dropped, while Sydney was a rare bright spot, putting on 0.6 percent. Shares in Singapore were little changed as the trade-reliant city-state braces for slower economic growth next year as demand in key markets in Asia weakens.
The modest uplift in global markets has come as shares rallied in Europe and the euro rose against the dollar after the EU, as expected, officially rejected Italy's big-spending budget, clearing the path for unprecedented sanctions and deepening a bitter row with Rome's populist government.
However, reports said Italy's government may be open to budget revisions as the European Union took a first step toward imposing fines on the country.
The pound was little changed against the greenback with Prime Minister Theresa May preparing to return to Brussels for more talks on the eve of a Brexit summit.
Key figures around 0300 GMT
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 21,504.00 (break)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: FLAT at 25,966.90
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 2,646.95
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1398 from $1.1385 at 2200 GMT
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2783 from $1.2777
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.98 yen from 113.04 yen
Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 20 cents at $54.43 per barrel
Oil - Brent Crude: DOWN 21 cents at $63.27 per barrel
New York - Dow: DOWN 2.2 percent at 24,465.64 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8 percent at 6,947.92 (close)