Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up 0.3% to 21,097.21. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2% to 6,553.40. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.5% to 2,092.73. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.6% to 27,132.14, while the Shanghai Composite fell 0.5% to 2,895.50.
Gains in energy and internet companies helped drive stocks broadly higher on Wall Street overnight, snapping a two-day losing streak for the market in an otherwise choppy week of trading. Investors have been searching for direction as they cautiously await any new developments on the global trade war between the U.S. and China. Any continued escalations could crimp global economic growth and halt what is poised to be the longest economic expansion in U.S. history.
The market is also looking ahead to next week's meeting of policyholders of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Last week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell set off a market rally after he signaled that the central bank is willing to cut interest rates to help stabilize the economy if the trade war between Washington and Beijing starts to crimp growth.
The S&P 500 index rose 11.80 points, or 0.4%, to 2,891.64. The benchmark index has been seesawing this week, opening strong on Monday, and then falling for two straight days before reversing course again on Thursday. The uneven week follows the index's best week of 2019.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 101.94 points, or 0.4%, to 26,106.77. The Nasdaq composite added 44.41 points, or 0.6%, to 7,837.13. The Russell 2000 index of small company stocks climbed 16.01 points, or 1.1%, to 1,535.80.
The alleged attacks in the Strait of Hormuz come amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran. One third of all oil traded by sea, which amounts to 20% of oil traded worldwide, passes through the strait. The ship owners have not described in detail how their tankers were damaged, and Iran has denied it was involved.
Economists Nicholas Mapa and Prakash Sakpal said in their report for ING that the market tone for the day was "wait and watch." "Setting the mixed tone for markets today, escalation of geopolitical tensions in the Gulf region counters the positive investor sentiment from rising expectations of the U.S. Fed easing," the report said.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 27 cents to $52.55. It rose 2.2% to settle at $52.28 a barrel Thursday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gained 55 cents to $61.86 a barrel. CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 108.33 Japanese yen from 108.44 yen on Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.1271 from $1.1294.
AP Business Writers Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga contributed to this report.