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Asian Stocks Up Ahead Of US 'fiscal Cliff' Talks

By PAMELA SAMPSON

BANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ Asian stock markets rose Friday, hours before President Barack Obama and key lawmakers were to meet at the White House to try to hammer out an 11th-hour budget compromise to avert the so-called fiscal cliff. Wall Street also appeared set for a session of gains.

Lawmakers have until Monday night to reach a deal before hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic tax increases and deep cuts to government spending kick in. Such a drastic reshuffling of money could throw the U.S. into another recession, economists have warned.

However, failure to avoid the fiscal cliff doesn't necessarily mean tax increases and spending cuts would become permanent, since the new Congress could pass legislation canceling them retroactively after it begins its work next year.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial futures were marginally higher at 13,005. S&P 500 futures gained nearly 0.1 percent to 1,411.80. European shares were mixed in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent to 5,959.89. Germany's DAX was nearly flat at 7,653.34. France's CAC-40 shed 0.1 percent to 3.670.03.

The day's market strength was in Asia. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.7 percent to 10,395.18, its highest level since March 10, 2011, the day that a mammoth earthquake and tsunami pummeled Japan's northeastern cost. Export shares posted big gains as the country's currency continued to recoil against the dollar. Mazda Motor Corp. jumped 4.8 percent and Isuzu Motors Ltd. surged 4.5 percent.

Investors have been cheering newly named Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his calls for more public works spending to reinvigorate the economy. He also wants the Bank of Japan to raise its inflation target from 1 to 2 percent to drag the country out of two decades of deflation, or steadily declining prices that have deadened economic activity.

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