Evan Lucas, analyst at IG Markets in Melbourne, said he expected to see further surges in Japan's Nikkei 225 index after a Japanese government official indicated that the yen would fall further, helping the company's big exporters. The Nikkei surged 2.9 percent to 10,926.67, its highest close since April 30, 2010.
In Germany, the Ifo index of business sentiment rose to its highest level since last June, with order backlogs growing.
The report "nicely illustrates the green shoots in the German economy," said ING senior economist Carsten Brzeski in Brussels.
"Even if the current harsh winter weather might delay the blossoming somewhat, growth should return, leaving the contraction of the fourth quarter quickly behind."
Germany's DAX rose 1 percent to 7,827.69 points, by far the strongest performer in Europe. France's CAC-40 was up 0.6 percent to 3,773.63.
But Britain's FTSE 100 edged up only 0.1 percent, to 6,273.21, after official figures showed the U.K. economy contracted 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter. If it shrinks for another quarter, it would be back in a technical recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction.
The fourth quarter drop was worse than expected and shows the economy is struggling to make any lasting recovery.
Meanwhile, Wall Street appeared headed for gains, with Dow Jones industrial futures 0.2 percent higher at 13,806 and S&P 500 futures gaining 0.2 percent to 1,494.20.
Looking ahead investors will keep an eye out for new data showing how much of the the European Central Bank's emergency loans to banks are being repaid early. The figure will provide a gauge of the health of banks in Europe — if many of them repay a lot of those loans early, markets will take that as a sign that they are now healthy enough to rely less on the ECB.
Earlier in Asia, South Korea's Kospi fell amid fears that the country's exporters could be slammed by Japan's dropping yen. The benchmark fell 1 percent to 1,943.97.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.1 percent to 23,580.43 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5 percent to 4,835.20.
In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.5 percent to 2,291.30 and the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 0.2 percent at 909.52.
Benchmark oil for March delivery was up 39 cents to $96.34 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.34233 from $1.3371 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 90.77 yen from 89.96 yen.
Pamela Sampson contributed to this story from Bangkok.