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Optimistic View of US Economy Helps Push Japan Stocks Higher


A brightening picture for the U.S. economy helped push Tokyo stocks higher Friday.

Sony, Toyota and other Japanese exporters gained ground on Tokyo's stock exchange Friday, propelled by evidence suggesting that the U-S economy has bottomed out. Investors encouraged by improving data for jobless claims and U.S. manufacturing, pushed Sony shares up 3 tenths of one percent while Toyota climbed one and a half percent. The Nikkei index rose 1.6 percent.

The U.S. market is critical for these companies and many others in Japan, which depend on the vast American economy for more than half of all sales.

Analysts say the recent weakening of Japanese currency is helping the nation's exporters, since the cheaper yen means their products are less expensive for overseas buyers. In recent trading, the yen has been hovering at about 132 against the U.S. dollar.

Haruhiko Kuroda, vice finance minister, told TV Tokyo that Japan's foreign exchange policy remains unchanged.

Mr. Kuroda said he does not see the lower yen as problematic but says the government does not intend to guide it lower.

In other markets, South Korea's KOSPI index lost more than half a percent. Hyundai Securities, the nation's second-largest brokerage, plunged 12 percent after an American company said it broke off talks to buy three Hyundai Group subsidiaries. The purchase would have been the largest foreign investment in the country's financial sector.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index ended the week with a small loss, pushing it to a drop of almost 3.5 percent this month.

Banking giant HSBC rose nearly one percent Friday after its U.S. competitor Citigroup reported better-than-forecast earnings.

However, analysts say HSBC's bounce will be temporary because investors are worried about its exposure to bankrupt energy trader Enron and to Argentina, whose economy is on the verge of collapsing.

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