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Nikkei up 0.29% on upbeat U.S. jobless claims

(Xinhua)

19:30, December 16, 2011

TOKYO, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Tokyo stocks ended mixed Friday, with the benchmark Nikkei stock index gaining 0.29 percent following macroeconomic data from the United States raising hopes that the recovery of the world's largest economy is back on track and temporarily detracting from concerns about Europe's massive debt crisis.

Tokyo-based strategists said that a report from the U.S. Labor Department showing that the number of Americans initially applying for unemployment aid last week dropped to the lowest level since May 2008.

They said that this provided a positive sign for the outlook of the U.S. job market and sparked hopes for the nation's broader economic recovery.

The department said that the advance figure for unemployment benefit claims was 366,000 in the week ending Dec. 10, a sizable drop of 19,000 from the previous week's revised figure. The department also noted that less than 375,000 people applying for aid signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

"Stocks are being bought back following gains in the U.S. and Europe. People know Japanese shares are cheap, but we won't see a big buyback without some kind of a trigger," said Soichiro Monji, chief strategist at Daiwa SB Investments Ltd.

Strategists here also said that upbeat U.S. manufacturing data contributed to a positive market mood, although ongoing concerns about sovereign debt troubles in the eurozone, specifically regarding an upcoming vote in Italy's parliament to approve a 43 billion U.S. dollar austerity package, added some downward pressure.

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average gained 24.35 points from Thursday to close the week at 8,401.72, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange dropped 1.46 points, or 0.20 percent, to finish at 723.56.

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