Asian markets mostly rose for a third successive day on Thursday, posting strong gains on hopes for stimulus measures in the United States and Europe as well as promises of help for Spain's banks.

The euro also held up against the yen and dollar after impressive gains in New York late Wednesday, with dealers feeling a little more confident European leaders can navigate the long-running crisis.

Tokyo closed 1.24 percent, or 106.19 points, higher at 8,639.72, as the weaker yen helped boost exporters, with Sony up 1.99 percent at 1,072 yen, Canon rising 3.40 percent to 3,185 yen and Toyota finishing 2.03 percent higher at 3,060 yen.

Meanwhile Seoul soared 2.56 percent, or 46.10 points, to 1,847.95, and Sydney rose 1.31 percent, adding 53.3 points, to 4,108.6.

In the afternoon Hong Kong rose 0.85 percent, or 157.76 points, to 18,678.29 but Shanghai closed 0.71 percent lower, shedding 16.43 points to 2,293.13 owing to nervousness ahead of the release of key economic data at the weekend.

Regional investors followed the lead of their counterparts in Europe and the United States.

While a decision by the European Central Bank to keep rates on hold disappointed investors, its head Mario Draghi said some governors on the policy committee had wanted a cut.

He added that Wednesday's decision was "taken by very broad consensus" -- which analysts took to mean that there could be a reduction next month.

The bank also said it would keep cash flowing to the 17-nation eurozone's embattled banks, at least through year-end.

On Spain, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici on Wednesday said the eurozone was ready to "mobilise very rapidly" to assist if Madrid requested it, slightly easing fears in the region's fourth largest economy.

Spain has become a huge concern for the eurozone, with Germany against providing aid to Spain to help its banks without a bailout, and other states flexible on how to help Madrid without resorting to a full rescue.

The likelihood of another round of stimulus in the United States rose again as the Fed looks to head off the effects of the European slump on the world's number one economy.

French and Spanish bond auctions later Thursday will provide a key test of confidence for the euro, dealers said.

Dennis Lockhart, President of the Atlanta Federal Reserve, said the central bank might need to consider more easing if economic growth there hits more roadblocks, days after another poor batch of jobs growth data.

He said if domestic growth is no longer possible "further monetary actions to support the recovery will certainly need to be considered", while the Fed rate-setting committee needs to be ready to respond to economic instability.

"The market is starting to price in additional policy response, and there is a greater expectation that something might happen before the Greek election (on June 17)," Tim Schroeders, fund manager, at Pengana Capital in Australia, told Dow Jones Newswires.

Eyes will now be on Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony on the US economic outlook later in the day for clues to the bank's response.

Investors in Europe and New York welcomed the comments. On Wall Street the Dow surged 2.37 percent, the S&P 500 rose 2.30 percent and the Nasdaq climbed 2.40 percent.

In Europe, shares in London, Frankfurt, Paris and Madrid were all more than two percent higher on Wednesday and they extended those gains in early trade on Thursday.

Amid concerns about the impact of Europe's crisis on the US economy President Barack Obama called British, German and Italian leaders Wednesday to press the case for an "immediate plan" to find a resolution.

"The leaders agreed on the importance of steps to strengthen the resilience of the eurozone and growth in Europe and globally," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Hours later, on Thursday morning in Europe German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she wanted to work towards political union but warned that an EU summit later this month would not solve the region's problems at once.

On currency markets the euro eased slightly in early Asian trade after making healthy gains in New York on Wednesday.

The common currency fetched $1.2550 and 99.60 yen in Tokyo, compared with $1.2580 and 99.63 yen in New York.

It had been sitting at $1.2490 and 98.60 yen in Asia earlier on Wednesday.

The dollar was at 79.30 yen Thursday, against 79.20 yen.

Oil was also lower in late afternoon trade. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in July, was down 39 cents to $84.63 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for July delivery fell 74 cents to $99.90.

Gold was at $1,622.50 an ounce at 0805 GMT, compared with $1,635.50 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei gained 0.34 percent, or 24.16 points, to 7,080.31.

TSMC rose 2.57 percent to Tw$79.8 while Hon Hai Precision was 1.33 percent higher at Tw$83.9.

-- Manila closed 1.14 percent, or 56.37 points, higher at 5,022.95.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone rose 1.16 percent to 2,444 pesos, BDO Unibank added 0.15 percent to 67.80 pesos, while Alliance Global rose 0.34 percent to 11.98 pesos.

-- Wellington closed 0.27 percent, or 9.44 points, higher at 3,273.96.

Auckland Airport rose 0.8 percent to NZ$2.53, Telecom climbed 1.01 percent to NZ$2.50 and Contact Energy was up 0.42 percent at NZ$4.76, while Fletcher Building eased 0.16 percent to NZ$6.29.