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Japanese Stocks Rise for Second Straight Day

Japanese stocks rose for the second day in a row, led by Honda and other exporters.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei average advanced 7/10th of one percent higher to end at 11,648 Friday. Good prospects for a U.S. recovery pushed export stocks higher with auto maker Honda rising more than 2.5 percent.

The Japanese stock market has been the strongest in the world for the last four weeks, partly due to government efforts to lift shares ahead of the business year-end on March 31. Some market watchers are optimistic that the gains could also reflect a mild turnaround for Japan's ailing economy.

Hiroshi Okuda, the chairman of Japan's Federation of Employers' Associations, says that people have been talking about the weak economy, but that he believes the situation is changing for the better.

In Taiwan, stocks lost ground Friday, closing at a two-week low. Taiwan's Weighted Index dropped almost 2-percent to 5,951. One of the worst performers was chipmaker United Microelectronics, which fell 5-percent. Its rival, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing lost almost 3-percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index also lost ground, finishing with a loss of less than 1-percent to 11,210. The market shed all the gains it had made this week. Conglomerate Citic Pacific ended lower after it released worse than expected results.

A decline in News Corp. stock pressured the Australian market. The S&P / ASX 200 fell 1.3 percent to 3,407. News Corp. shares dropped after an investment bank predicted its U.S. holdings would lose money this year.

Australian stocks were also hurt by concerns that the government could lift interest rates as early as June. That would increase costs for corporate borrowers.