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Asian stocks up after US holiday shopping gets off to strong start
BANGKOK (AP) ' Asian stocks climbed Monday, buoyed by a robust start to the U.S. holiday shopping season and reports that European leaders are considering legal means to force debt-ridden euro countries into fiscal discipline.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.9 percent to 8,314.45. South Korea's Kospi gained 2 percent to 1,811.99 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 1.8 percent to 18,012.29. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 2 percent to 4,067.
Benchmarks in mainland China, Singapore, Indonesia and Taiwan were also higher.
German media reported over the weekend that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were studying legal changes ' possibly amendments to the European Union growth and stability pact ' to force nations using the euro common currency to comply with strict rules for budget discipline and tough sanctions for violators.
Traders were awaiting more details on such a possible plan, as well as the results of a key meeting Tuesday of finance ministers from the 17 euro nations.
Worries about Europe's debt crisis flared anew Friday after Italy had to pay 7.8 percent to borrow for two years at a debt auction. It's another sign that investors are increasingly hesitant to lend to European countries.
Higher interest rates on government debt of Italy, Spain and other European countries have rattled stock markets in recent weeks. Greece, Ireland and Portugal had to seek financial lifelines when their interest rates crossed the 7 percent mark.
Meanwhile, a record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites during the four-day U.S. holiday weekend starting on Thanksgiving Day, up from 212 million last year, according to early estimates by The National Retail Federation.
The results for the first holiday shopping weekend show that retailers' efforts to lure shoppers during the weak economy are working. The question remains whether retailers' will be able to hold shopper attention throughout the remainder of the season, which can account for 25 to 40 percent of a merchant's annual revenue.
During a shortened post-holiday trading session on Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.2 percent to close at 11,231.78. The S&P 500 lost 0.3 percent to 1,158.67. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.8 percent to close at 2,441.51.