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TheStreet Open House

Asia Stocks Mixed As Holidays Thin Trade

By TOBY STERLING

AMSTERDAM (AP) â¿¿ World stock markets rose steadily on Friday after two key indicators suggested the U.S. economic expansion will continue.

The Conference Board reported that its leading indicator index for the U.S. increased 0.6 percent in April, following a 0.2 decline in March, due to recovering housing and labor markets.

"In general, the (index) points to a continuing economic expansion with some upside potential," said Ataman Ozyildirim, an economist at the private research association.

In addition, the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index rose to 83.7 in May, the highest level since July 2007 and better than analysts had expected, in part due to lower gasoline prices at the pump recently.

Wall Street recouped losses incurred Thursday due to worries the Federal Reserve may begin slowing asset purchases later in the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4 percent to 15,295.65 points, while the S&P 500 rose 0.5 percent to 1,658.50. Both are just points away from record highs.

Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.5 percent to close at 6,723.06. Germany's DAX climbed 0.3 percent to 8,398.00, while France's CAC-40 gained 0.6 percent to 4,001.27.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.7 percent to close at 15,138.12, reversing a lower open. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 percent to 5,180.80, pushed up by gains in BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company. The stock rose 1.9 percent on bargain-hunting.

Benchmarks in mainland China and Indonesia also rose while those in Taiwan, India, Singapore, New Zealand and the Philippines fell. Markets in Hong Kong and South Korea were closed for public holidays.

Evan Lucas of IG Markets in Melbourne attributed the markets that did decline to investors there booking profits.

"There is always an uneasy feeling underlying the markets when they start making all-time highs," Lucas said.

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