updated 4/2/2008 9:52:27 AM ET 2008-04-02T13:52:27

Asian stocks surged Wednesday as investors took heart from an overnight rally on Wall Street amid a growing belief that the worst of the credit crisis is over, while European stocks rose modestly on stronger performance by financial-sector shares.

Major Market Indices

In Europe, share prices rose for banks such as UBS, which took large writedowns Tuesday that helped convince investors the worst of its subprime troubles may be past. But automakers lagged, after weak U.S. sales data for March as well as a broker downgrade for Daimler.

In the U.K., the FTSE 100 rose 0.60 percent at 5,887.50, while Germany's DAX gained 0.78 percent at 6,772.69. France's CAC 40 climbed 0.52 percent to 4,891.40.

Shares of UBS rose 5.00 percent, while Barclays Plc jumped 4.38 percent and Royal Bank of Scotland added 3.39 percent.

"There is an element of taking in the movements we saw yesterday, so still trying to comprehend what the write-downs from UBS and Deutsche Bank mean for the banking sector and the market as a whole," said Keith Bowman, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers.

Bowman said that figures showing the UK's construction industry shrank for the first time in more than six years were offset by a surprisingly bright U.S. private sector jobs report, "which suggests the downturn in the U.S. jobs market has slowed in the last month or so."

In Tokyo, on the region's biggest bourse, the Nikkei 225 index rose 4.2 percent to 13,189.4. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed 3.2 percent to 23,872.4.

Benchmark indices in Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines all gained more than 2 percent. And in mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index finished 0.6 percent higher after having gained as much as 4.1 percent.

"Investors believe the credit crisis in the U.S. is over," said Francis Lun, a general manager at Fulbright Securities in Hong Kong. "They think the worst has gone."

Wall Street began the second quarter with a big rally Tuesday as investors rushed back into stocks amid easing worries about the credit crisis that has battered many major banks and optimism that the U.S. economy _ a major export market for Asia _ is faring better than expected.

Financial stocks were among the big winners in U.S. and Asian trading after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Switzerland's UBS AG issued new shares to help bolster their balance sheets. The news was viewed as upbeat and offset even an announcement that UBS will write down a fresh US$19 billion (euro12 billion) due to additional declines in the value of its mortgage assets and other credit instruments.

In New York Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrials climbed nearly 400 points, around 3.2 percent, to 12,654.4, and all the major U.S. stock indexes were up more than 3 percent.

In Tokyo trading, megabank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group soared 9.8 percent, Mizuho Financial Group gained 10 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group jumped 9 percent.

Property company Mitsui Fudosan climbed 12 percent and Sumitomo Realty & Development gained 12 percent.

Easing concerns about the credit crisis also prompted the dollar to rise against the yen, boosting the buying of exporter issues such as automakers and electronics companies, traders said. Honda Motor Co. rose 7.4 percent, and Canon gained 6 percent.

Chinese financial firms led the blue chip gains in Hong Kong. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the nation's biggest lender by assets, soared 4.9 percent, China Construction Bank added 4.8 percent and Bank of Communications increased 6.5 percent.

Oil companies also climbed higher, with Sinopec rising 6.3 percent and CNOOC adding 3.5 percent.

Some analysts warned, though, that the rebound could be precarious.

Asian markets are still "hinged to the credit crunch problem in the U.S. and Europe," said Castor Pang, a strategist at Sun Hung Kai Financial in Hong Kong. "If the problem turns worse again, the money will leave Asia."

In currency trading, the dollar rose to 102.28 yen at midafternoon, up from 102.04 yen late Tuesday in New York. The euro dipped to US$1.5544 from US$1.5601.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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