Asian stocks rise as fears over US bank tests wane

Asian stock markets climbed Thursday, following Wall Street higher as early reports about the US government's tests of banking health helped allay investor concerns about the financial sector. Japanese shares led the way, with the Nikkei benchmark jumping 4 percent, as investors returning from a three-day holiday played catch up with gains on other regional markets this week. Oil prices, which hit a new high for 2009 overnight, continued to gain ground. Investors seemed comforted after media reports indicated the balance sheets of Bank of America and other top US banks were not as bad as feared, though many would still face huge capital shortfalls should the economy worsen. The news, a day ahead of an official announcement Thursday, helped dispel the uncertainty about the government's "stress tests" and about just how many more billions of dollars US lenders will need to cover their losses.