Asian stocks jumped on Thursday, posting their biggest single-day gain in four weeks, as U.S. housing data fueled optimism about the world's largest economy.

Financial bookmakers expect leading European markets to open up over 1 percent after Wall Street's rally. U.S. stock futures were 0.6 percent higher.

Solid sales growth for May from major U.S. automakers also helped the auto sector in Japan, while stocks in Seoul received an additional boost from foreign buying.

Wall Street responded positively to good U.S. housing data, which may be a sign that attention is shifting away from Europe after a long period in which indicators were ignored in favor of euro zone issues, said Toshiyuki Kanayama, market analyst at Monex Inc.

Tokyo's Nikkei share average rose over 3 percent <.N225>, its biggest one-day rise in six months, as exporters received a leg-up from the upbeat economic data in the United States, one of Japan's biggest export markets, with a weak yen also helping.

Honda Motor <7267.T> jumped 4.3 percent while Toyota Motor <7203.T> was 3.6 percent higher.

The MSCI index of Asia Pacific ex-Japan stocks <.MIAPJ0000PUS> was up 3.1 percent, its biggest percent gain in four weeks, led by resources <.MIAPJMT00PUS> and financials


In Seoul, the Korea Composite Stock Price Index <.KS11> (KOSPI) was nearly 2 percent, its highest close in nearly three weeks with foreign buying of a net 255 billion won ($212 million) worth of stocks, after selling on Tuesday. The Seoul market was closed on Wednesday for a public holiday.

Investors are awaiting crucial U.S. job data due on Friday. A strong U.S. non-farm payrolls report would point to a broadening economic recovery that will be able to weather Europe's debt storm, analysts said.


The dollar inched up 0.2 percent to 92.35 yen, hovering near a 2-week high of 92.36 yen hit the previous day. The yen has been under pressure after Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his deputy resigned to try to boost the ruling party's faltering fortunes in an election next month.

The weaker outlook for the yen benefitted the floundering euro also, with the single currency rising 0.7 percent to 113.65.

But investors remained cautious over Europe's debt problems.

That (the market bounce) is not to say concerns toward the euro zone have ebbed. The situation continues to be watched with caution following the recent rise in Spain's short-term yields, said Shoji Yoshigoe, a senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Bank of Japan policy board member Miyako Suda warned that Europe's problems and the ensuing market turmoil could hurt Japan's economy.

We would be more convinced of the rally's durability if it were accompanied by falling Western European Sovereign CDS, said a client note from ING Bank.

Reflecting investors' concerns, the Markit SovX Western European index of credit default swaps widened 7.5 basis points to 154.5 bps. It is just off the record peak of around 170 bps struck last month.

Safe haven U.S. Treasuries were steady despite the sharp rise in demand for riskier assets, indicating there were investors who remained suspicious of the rally.

Benchmark 10-year notes are yielding 3.34 percent after rising 7 bps overnight. The yield is just above a one-year low of 3.06 percent hit last week and far below the high of 4.00 percent struck in early April.

U.S. oil futures prices rose as much as $1.03 to $73.89 a barrel after an industry group reported U.S. crude inventories fell more than expected last week.

Gold prices fell on speculative selling but an increase in ETF holdings to another record suggested demand from investors remained firm.

(Additional reporting by Elaine Lies in TOKYO and Jungyoun Park in SEOUL)

(Editing by Kazunori Takada)