The Bank of Japan's closely-watched quarterly "tankan" survey for June showed that the index for major manufacturers rose to positive 4 points from negative 8 in March. It was the first positive figure since September 2011. A positive reading means more companies are optimistic than pessimistic.
The report, along with another survey showing consumer prices stopped falling for the first time in seven months, suggests companies are reacting positively to the weaker yen and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policies to revive the economy.
Market gains were tempered, however, by a report showing China's manufacturing decelerated in June for a second month. The survey by HSBC Corp. and a Chinese industry group declined to 48.2 points from May's 49.2 on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate a contraction. The drop reflects in part a tightening in lending conditions as Beijing sought to stabilize the credit market.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 rose 1.3 per cent to close at 13,852.50 while China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained a more moderate 0.8 per cent to 1,998.24.
In Europe, stock indexes rose after a mixed set of economic indicators for the region. Unemployment across the 17-country eurozone rose to another record high, at 12.1 per cent in May. The number shows the massive amount of work governments have to address the social impact that their debt reduction policies have had.
A separate report, however, showed an improvement in manufacturing activity in Britain, France and Italy and stabilization in Spain.
By midday in Europe, Germany's DAX was 0.6 per cent higher at 8,008.29 while France's CAC-40 was up 0.8 per cent to 3,770.24. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.9 per cent at 6,272.32.
Wall Street was set to gain with Dow futures up 0.7 per cent at 14,921. S&P 500 futures added 0.6 per cent to 1,608.60.
Looking ahead, investors will monitor the ISM manufacturing survey in the U.S. It is expected to show a rise to about 51.5 points for June, after falling below 50 the previous month. A number below 50 denotes contraction in the sector's activity.
U.S. economic indicators have been one of the main market drivers in recent weeks as investors gauge whether they are likely to encourage the Federal Reserve to wind down its monetary stimulus earlier than planned.
After a volatile few weeks, Fed officials are trying to calm investors' concerns about the central bank's planned reduction in monthly purchases of financial assets. Those purchases, dubbed quantitative easing, are aimed at stimulating the economy by pushing down market interest rates, and investors worry that as the economy improves, a pullback could deprive them of cheap borrowing rates.
In that vein, the U.S. monthly jobs report due Friday will get huge attention as it is the most closely watched indicator for the world's largest economy.
Key events this week also include the European Central Bank's monthly policy meeting on Thursday. The ECB is expected to keep its interest rates on hold at a record low, but may offer some insight on a program it is working on to help spur lending to small and middle-sized companies.
Earlier in Asia, smaller stock markets mostly fell on concern that China's manufacturing slowdown might hurt their economies. Sydney's ASX/S&P 200 lost 1.9 per cent to 4,710.30.
Taiwan's Taiex shed 0.3 per cent to 8,036 while South Korea's Kospi fell 0.4 per cent to 1,855.73. Singapore, Bangkok and Manila gained while Hong Kong was closed for a holiday.
In other markets, the benchmark crude oil contract for August delivery was up 48 cents at $97.04 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The dollar gained to 99.56 yen from 99.11 yen late Friday. The euro rose to $1.3047 from $1.3013.
Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.