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Stocks Recover After Japan Drop Rattles Traders

By JOE McDONALD

BEIJING (AP) â¿¿ Asian stocks rebounded Friday from Tokyo's sharp decline after investors were encouraged by positive U.S. economic news.

Oil stayed above $96 a barrel on signs of steady American hiring and stronger retail sales despite mounting signs of weakness in China's economic recovery.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225, the regional heavyweight, gained 2.4 percent to 12,748.33, rebounding from Thursday's 6.4 percent plunge that took the index into "bear market" territory.

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.2 percent to 2,152.96, coming off Thursday's 2.8 percent slide to its lowest close in six months. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1 percent to 21,093.50 and Seoul added 0.2 percent to 1,885.63.

Markets are jittery about the possibility the U.S. Federal Reserve might wind down its stimulus, but were steadied by data showing U.S. retail sales rose 0.6 percent in May, their strongest showing in six months. Also, the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits was smaller than expected last week.

"Gains in US stocks overnight will help to calm sentiment," said Credit Agricole CIB analyst Mitul Kotecha in a report.

Taiwan's Taiex fell 0.4 percent to 7,916.76 and Sydney's ASX S&P 200 rose 1.7 percent to 4,776.60. Market benchmarks in Singapore, Manila, Jakarta and New Zealand also gained.

On Wall Street overnight, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.2 percent and the Standard & Poor's 500 index added 1.5 percent.

Markets in France, Britain and Germany also rose.

Japanese markets have weakened following a burst of euphoria over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic turnaround plan. Markets had surged 50 percent since the start of the year but doubts are mounting about whether Abe's plan will work.

The Nikkei's plunge Thursday took the Japanese market to a 20 percent decline from its May 22 high â¿¿ the definition of a bear market.

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