BANGKOK -- Asian stocks catapulted higher Wednesday amid speculation Japan might take new measures to spur its economy, but European shares scaled back a day after posting strong gains.
Britain's FTSE 100 was 0.2 percent lower at 5,755. Germany's DAX dropped 0.7 percent to 6,753.88 and France's CAC-40 was down 1 percent at 3,258.32.
Wall Street appeared set for a session of negative trade, a day after registering its strongest gains in a month. Dow Jones industrial futures fell marginally to 13,017 while S&P 500 futures fell 0.1 percent to 1,382.20.
But the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo soared 2.1 percent to 9,667.26, boosted by Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Kiyohiko Nishimura's suggestion that the central bank might take additional stimulus steps to tackle deflation, Kyodo news agency reported.
South Korea's Kospi added 1 percent to 2,004.53 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.4 percent to 4,348.20. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1.1 percent to 20,780.73. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand also rose.
Mainland Chinese shares rose on hopes for financial reforms aimed at regulating private lending and creating new institutions to serve private borrowers better, analysts said.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 2 percent to 2,380.85. The Shenzhen Composite Index gained 2.1 percent to 956.49.
Poly Real Estate, China's second-largest listed property, gained 4.7 percent while industry leader China Vanke gained 3.2 percent after the National Bureau of Statistics reported that home prices fell in March for the sixth straight month.
"The lower prices suggest there will be no fresh control policies" for the property sector, said Zhang Yang, an analyst at Sinolink Securities, based in Shanghai.
In the U.S., quarterly earnings reports were expected from American Express Co., eBay Inc., Halliburton Co., Marriott International Inc. and Yum Brands Inc. Results issued Tuesday gave Wall Street its best day in a month.
Positive news also came from the International Monetary Fund, which raised its outlook for the global economy because of faster U.S. growth and a coordinated effort in Europe to address its debt crisis.
The global lending organization said Tuesday the U.S. economy should expand 2.1 percent this year. Europe will likely shrink 0.3 percent and the world economy should grow 3.5 percent. All three estimates are slightly better than the IMF's January forecasts.
On Tuesday, European stocks had their best day in four months after Spain attracted strong investor interest at an auction of two-year debt.
Rising commodities prices helped Australian resource stocks. OZ Minerals rose 3.1 percent. BHP Billiton added 2.8 percent after announcing its iron ore and petroleum production rose in the first three months of calendar 2012.
"Commodities were generally stronger as the U.S. dollar retreated and growth concerns eased," said Stan Shamu, analyst at IG Markets in Melbourne.
Japanese automakers, benefiting from a lower yen, soared. Isuzu Motors Corp. jumped 5.3 percent, Honda Motor Co. was up 3.9 percent and Nissan Motor Co. climbed 4.2 percent.
Hong Kong-listed CNOOC, China's largest offshore oil producer, jumped 3.3 percent a day after announcing that an oil field it discovered in the Bohai Sea two years ago has proven to be the largest found in recent years in the region, Xinhua news agency said.
Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 22 cents to $104.41 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.27 to settle at $104.20 in New York on Tuesday.
In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.3084 from $1.3139 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 81.52 yen from 80.80 yen.