Shanghai stocks closed more than one percent higher on Monday, with traders buoyed by reports that China's official pension funds may start investing, as markets across Asia saw modest gains.
Wall Street's strong performance last week continued to reverberate after US stocks hit new highs Friday for the sixth time in seven sessions.
Tokyo stocks overcame early losses to end modestly higher as yen weakness prompted late bargain-hunting.
Shanghai gained 1.18 percent after a Chinese media report that a first tranche of investment into China stocks by official pension funds was expected as early as this week.
"This is great news for the mainland Chinese market. Investor confidence and trading enthusiasm was fired by this," Yingda Securities Chief Economist Li Daxiao told AFP.
Retail conglomerate Shanghai Bailian Group surged by its 10 percent daily limit to 17.82 yuan on Monday after the announcement of a tie-up with e-commerce giant Alibaba.
Heavyweight banking shares were among the gainers in Shanghai. Bank of China added 1.65 percent to 3.69 yuan, while China CITIC Bank Corp climbed 2.17 percent to 7.05 yuan.
With US markets closed Monday for the Presidents' Day holiday, investors were turning to corporate and political developments elsewhere.
Europe was back in focus after a poll showed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling party lagging the Social Democrats for the first time under her leadership ahead of looming elections.
Uncertainty in France was also on traders' minds.
"The political uncertainty has definitely increased as the chances of a Marine Le Pen victory and the Dutch election got into full swing," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at CFD and FX provider AxiTrader.
Unilever tumbled after Kraft Heinz withdrew its $143 billion bid for its erstwhile target.
- Strengthening yen -
Tokyo stocks had moved into positive territory in the afternoon as the yen weakened.
A stronger yen is generally a negative for Japan's exporters as it dents the value of their overseas profits when sent back home.
"Players bought on dip as they felt relieved to see the yen losing ground," Toshikazu Horiuchi, a broker at IwaiCosmo Securities, told AFP.
The greenback stood at 113.18 yen, up from 112.87 in New York Friday, but well below the near 114 yen seen in Tokyo at the start of last week.
In oil markets WTI and Brent both strengthened Monday after earlier weakness.
Some analysts suggested ballooning crude stocks may dampen future oil prices.
"If demand growth doesn't flow through to balance out the market as OPEC expected, then the ability to drive price sustainably into the $55/$60 region they seem to be targeting is in question," McKenna added.
Oil-producing nations in the OPEC cartel have agreed to scale back production, helping send oil prices back above $50 from lows less than $30 per barrel last year, But recent data has shown US shale producers are bringing wells back on line.
In early European trade, London was up 0.4 percent, Frankfurt gained 0.6 percent and Paris added 0.5 percent.
- Key figures around 0900 GMT -
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.09 percent at 19,251.08 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.47 percent at 24,146.08 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.18 per cent at 3,239.96 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0625 from $1.0615
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2475 from $1.2421
Dollar/yen: UP at 113.18 yen from 112.87 yen
Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 33 cents at $56.14 per barrel
Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 21 cents at $53.61
New York - Dow: UP less than 0.1 percent at 20,624.05 (close)
London - FTSE 100: UP 0.4 percent at 7,326.70