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Asian Markets Mellow


European markets were closed for the holiday

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index added 76.30 points, or 0.45%, to finish at 17,169.19 -- the highest close since May 9. Nippon Steel Corp. rose 5.1%, its highest level since March 1990, after the Nihon Keizai newspaper reported Japanese shipmakers agreed to pay 5% more for the metal next year. Japanese retailers, such as Aeon Co., climbed after household spending fell at the slowest pace this year in November and the jobless rate reached an eight-year low. Mizuho Financial Group Inc. led a decline by Japanese banks on concern that gains in the nation's consumer prices aren't enough to prompt the Bank of Japan to raise interest rates.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was closed for the holiday.

The KOSPI in South Korea declined 0.25% to 1,433.92. Korean Air shed 1.4%, while banks gained 0.4% on expectations of stable annual dividends compared with other shares. Korea Exchange Bank jumped 1.8%. LG Philips LCD also rose 1.7% on bargain-hunting, bucking the technology downtrend.

Taiwan's Taiex index jumped 1.1% after the country's central bank favored a free exchange of China's currency in Taiwan.


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