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Asia Stocks Up As Takeover Talk In US Drives Dow

By PAMELA SAMPSON

BANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ World stock markets picked up steam Wednesday, driven higher by reports that another big corporate takeover might be in the works in the U.S.

A report that major office supply retailers Office Depot and OfficeMax are in talks to combine their businesses sent the Dow Jones industrial average to a near-record high Tuesday. That news came on top of an $11 billion tie-up between American Airlines and US Airways, announced earlier this month, that will create the world's biggest airline.

Stock markets are often energized by speculation of takeovers. Aside from pushing up the share prices of the companies involved if the deal is regarded as a good one, investors also see big takeovers as a sign of confidence in the business and economic outlook.

Stocks on Wall Street appeared headed for gains. Dow Jones industrial futures rose 0.1 percent to 14,021 and S&P 500 futures were 0.1 percent higher at 1,529.70.

European shares were mixed in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 fell marginally to 6,375.91. Germany's DAX rose 0.2 percent to 7,765.10. France's CAC-40 was down 0.1 percent to 3,731.40.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.8 percent to finish at 11,468.28, its highest close in more than four years. The index briefly topped 11,500 for the first time since late 2008, despite a government report showing the country posted a record high monthly trade deficit of 1.63 trillion yen ($17.4 billion) in January.

South Korea's Kospi advanced 2 percent to 2,024.64. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.7 percent to 23,307.41. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3 percent to 5,098.70.

Stocks also got a lift from data released Tuesday that showed German investor sentiment rising in February, way above market expectations. The index is now at its highest level for nearly three years, adding to the evidence that suggests Germany's economy will not fall into recession.

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