Japan's Nikkei standout in US holiday-hit markets

LONDON (AP) — Japan's stock index was the standout performer Thursday, surging to its highest level in almost six years as the yen fell amid speculation that the country's monetary policy will be eased further.

On a day when trading levels are low because of the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., the Nikkei 225 helped shore up markets around the world, as it advanced 1.8 percent to 15,727.12, its highest close since late 2007.

The benchmark's surge has been driven by the Japanese currency's slump to its lowest in half a year. The dollar strengthened to a high of 102.38 yen as traders bet on more monetary easing from the central bank as it tries to revive the world's third biggest economy.

Japan's powerhouse exporters are potentially the biggest beneficiaries of the yen's weakness, as buyers may find it cheaper to purchase cars and electronics made by export manufacturers such as Toyota and Sony.

"The Nikkei remains the world beater this year, up more than 51 percent in 2013," said Robert Kavcic, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

In Europe, Germany's DAX closed up 0.43 percent at 9,387.37, while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.2 percent to 4,302.42. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares ended 0.1 percent higher at 6,654.47.

A survey from the European Commission, showing economic sentiment in the 17-country eurozone at a 27-month high in November had little impact in either stock markets or in the currency markets, where the euro was trading 0.1 percent higher at $1.3600.

Potentially more interesting will be Friday's official inflation figures. Another fall from October's 0.7 percent rate could stoke speculation of further monetary easing from the European Central Bank, weighing on the euro.

Earlier in Asia, South Korea's Kospi rose 0.8 percent to 2,045.77 and China's Shanghai Composite added 0.8 percent to 2,219.37. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 edged up less than 0.1 percent to 5,334.30.

The Philippines PSE Composite index soared nearly 2 percent after the government reported that the economy grew 7 percent in the third quarter. However, Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid in the final hour of trading to close 0.1 percent lower at 23,789.09.

Elsewhere, the benchmark New York contract for crude oil was down 15 cents at $92.15 a barrel. Oil prices have drifted lower in recent weeks as geopolitical concerns regarding Syria have subsided and following an international- agreement this week over Iran's nuclear plans.


Chan reported from Hong Kong.

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