SYDNEY, April 30 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks scaled near eight-week highs on Thursday, tracking Wall Street's overnight rally on promising early trial results of an experimental COVID-19 treatment, as well as on solid tech earnings and a surge in oil prices.
The benchmark Nikkei average advanced 2.6% to 20,281.58 by the midday break, after touching a near eight-week intraday high of 20,316.96 earlier in the session.
The Nikkei volatility index, considered a fear gauge based on option pricing, dropped 11.2% to an eight-week low of 29.6, reflecting a decline in investor anxiety.
U.S. stocks surged on Wednesday on hopes for a COVID-19 treatment as the top U.S. infectious disease official said a government study found that Gilead Sciences' antiviral, remdesivir, had a clear effect in cutting the time patients need to recover.
Big tech companies provided the biggest lift to the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, up 2.7% and 3.6% respecively, and pushed all three major Wall Street indexes closer to their all-time highs reached in February.
Tokyo-listed oil and gas companies Inpex Corp jumped 5.1% and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co Ltd climbed 3.8%, as oil prices surged more than 10% on Wednesday after U.S. crude stockpiles grew less than expected.
The broader Topix gained 1.5% to 1,470.73 by the midday recess, with all but five of the 33 sector sub-indexes on the Tokyo exchange trading higher.
Highly cyclical sea transport, iron and steel and mining were the top three performing sector subindexes on the main bourse.
As some countries have started easing their coronavirus lockdown and moving toward reopening economies, the business daily Nikkei reported the Japanese government is planning to extend the state of emergency by about a month for the entire country.
The news weighed on Japan's top theme park operator Oriental Land Co Ltd, which has already announced temporary closure of Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea at least until mid-May. Oriental Land dropped 3.3%, partly due to disappointing earnings results for the business year ended in March. (Reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)