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Japanese Market Significantly Higher

The Japanese stock market is significantly higher on Thursday, snapping a four-session losing streak, with the Nikkei 225 nearing the 28,300 level, following the broadly positive cues from global markets overnight, with the gains led by technology stocks. Traders are cheering the US Fed Chair Jerome Powell's comments about interest rate hikes.

Powell's remarks provided further evidence the central bank plans to slow its aggressive pace of interest rate hikes as soon as next month.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is up 315.33 points or 1.13 percent to 28,284.32, after touching a high of 28,423.46 earlier. Japanese stocks closed modestly lower on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is gaining almost 2 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is adding more than 2 percent. Among automakers, Toyota and Honda are edging down 0.4 to 0.5 percent each.

In the tech space, Screen Holdings is gaining more than 2 percent, Tokyo Electron is adding almost 4 percent and Advantest is advancing more than 3 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is losing almost 1 percent, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is declining more than 1 percent and Mizuho Financial is down almost 2 percent.

Among the major exporters, Mitsubishi Electric is edging down 0.4 percent, Canon is losing almost 1 percent, while Sony is gaining 1.4 percent. Panasonic is flat.

Among the other major gainers, Eisai is surging more than 5 percent and Tokai Carbon is gaining more than 4 percent, while Nippon Sheet Glass, Shiseido and TDK are adding more than 3 percent. Yaskawa Electric is advancing almost 3 percent.

Conversely, Shizuoka Financial is losing almost 4 percent, while Sompo Holdings and Sumitomo Realty & Development are declining almost 3 percent each.

In economic news, the manufacturing sector in Japan fell into contraction in November, the latest survey from Jibun Bank showed on Thursday with a manufacturing PMI core of 49.0. That's down from 50.7 in October, and it moves beneath the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the higher 136 yen-range on Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks turned in a lackluster performance in morning trading on Wednesday but moved sharply higher in reaction to highly anticipated remarks by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. With the surge, the Dow reached a new seven-month closing high, while the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 reached their best closing levels in over two months.

The major averages saw further upside going into the close, ending the session at their best levels of the day. The Dow jumped 737.24 points or 2.2 percent to 34,589.77, the Nasdaq soared 484.22 points or 4.4 percent to 11,468.00 and the S&P 500 spiked 122.48 points or 3.1 percent to 4,080.11.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index jumped by 1.0 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.8 percent and the German DAX Index rose by 0.3 percent.

Crude oil futures surged on Wednesday after data showed a steep drop in U.S. crude inventories last week. Expectations of increased demand from China and a weaker dollar also contributed to the jump in oil prices. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for January ended higher by $2.35 or 3 percent at $80.55 a barrel.

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