Major regional benchmarks opened lower after Wall Street touched multiyear lows overnight but climbed into positive territory by midday. Oil prices, which had fallen below $49 a barrel to three-year lows in early Asian trading, also bounced back.
But with signs of recession spreading around the globe, the outlook remains grim, analysts said.
"After tanking for so many days there will always be a belief that you just can't draw a straight line down. There may be a day or a day and a half of respite," said Song Seng Wun, head of research at CIMB Securities in Singapore.
"But there is still a lot of uncertainty. If there was some announcement of help for the U.S. auto industry that might buy us some time but the strategy still seems to be to sell into any strength," he said.
Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average rose 207.75 points, or 2.7 percent, to 7,910.79 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index jumped 465 points, or 3.8 percent, to 12,763.81.
South Korea's Kospi surged 5.8 percent and Australia's market advanced 1.9 percent.
On the down side, mainland China's Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.7 percent and markets in the Philippines and Indonesia also declined.
U.S. stock index futures were higher, suggesting Wall Street would bounce back after a crushing two-day 10.6 percent plunge in the Dow Jones industrial average, its worst two-day percentage loss since October 1987.
Wall Street on Thursday suffered another late-session rout as hopes faded that lawmakers would quickly assemble an aid package for U.S. automakers. Stocks were also battered by worries the $700 billion bailout won't be big enough and oil plunging to a three-year low on expectations of a global economic recession.
The S&P 500 index fell 6.7 percent to its lowest close since April 1997. The Dow, meanwhile, fell 445 points, or 5.6 percent, to its lowest close since March 2003.
Dow futures were up 199 points, or 2.7 percent, to 7,686, while S&P 500 futures were up 18.7 points, or 2.5 percent, to 767.
In Asian trading, light, sweet oil for January delivery edged up 61 cents to $50.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after earlier falling as low as $48.25, the lowest since May 2005. Financial, real estate and technology stocks led the recovery in Asia.
In Hong Kong, HSBC Holdings PCL jumped 4.5 percent, China Construction Bank Corp. was up 6.7 percent, and developer Cheung Kong jumped 5.8 percent. Japan's top bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Finance, rose 2.1 percent.
In Seoul, Samsung Electronic rose 4 percent, while Taiwan's Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd., the world's largest contract chip-maker, gained 4.6 percent.
"There's a little bit of strength coming back into beaten-down stocks," said Andrew Yates, vice president of foreign institutional sales at Asia Plus Securities in Bangkok. "But the volumes are not great so it's difficult to call a bottom particularly with the macro picture being so weak."
In Europe Thursday, Britain's FTSE 100 index closed down 130.69 points, or 3.3 percent, at 3,874.99, while Germany's DAX fell 3.1 percent to 4,220.20. The CAC-40 in France sank 3.5 percent to 2,980.42.