BANGKOK (AP) — Japan's stock market closed at its highest level since April 2010 on Tuesday, buoyed by a weaker yen and major stimulus measures to help the country's struggling economy.
Elsewhere, investors sat on the sidelines or sold shares to rake in profits ahead of the release of U.S. retail sales for December and fourth-quarter corporate earnings. Investors will be scrutinizing company revenues to assess whether the drawn-out "fiscal cliff" debate had an impact on consumer spending. A series of tax hikes and spending cuts, due to come into effect Jan. 1, were only averted by a last-minute deal.
Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.1 percent to 6,102.18. Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent to 7,719.62. France's CAC-40 was nearly unchanged at 3,708.27. Wall Street was set for a weak open. Dow Jones futures fell 0.1 percent to 13,416. S&P 500 futures also lost ground, falling 0.2 percent to 1,461.20.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.7 percent to finish at 10,879.08, its highest close in nearly three years, after Masaaki Shirakawa, governor of Japan's central bank, pledged to take action to combat the country's deflationary slump.
In a boost for Japanese exporters, the yen has slid against the U.S. dollar and euro since the Liberal Democratic Party returned to power in national elections last month. Its leader, Shinzo Abe, has been lobbying the central bank for aggressive action to end Japan's years of deflation, demanding that it meet an inflation target of about 2 percent.
In announcing a 20 trillion yen ($225 billion) economic stimulus package last Friday, Abe reiterated his calls for the Bank of Japan to do more to boost growth.
Elsewhere in Asia, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.1 percent to 4,716.60 and South Korea's Kospi dropped 1.1 percent to 1,986. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.1 percent to 23,381.51.
"It's just profit-taking because the index is already overbought and many stocks are overbought," said Kwong Man Bun, chief operating officer at KGI Securities in Hong Kong.
Benchmarks in Indonesia, mainland China and New Zealand rose while the Philippines, Taiwan and Singapore fell.
In a speech in the U.S. on Monday, Bernanke said the U.S. Federal Reserve's bond-buying program, dubbed quantitative easing, was providing key support for the economy and made no mention of winding the program down, even though some Fed officials recently said they favor doing that.
The U.S. central bank has been buying $85 billion a month in Treasurys and mortgage bonds to try to keep borrowing costs low and encourage more spending.
Analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in an email commentary that markets found some relief in Bernanke's speech as it did not repeat the views of some Fed officials in hinting at an early ending of quantitative easing.
On Friday, investors will assess a slew of data for signs of growth in China, the world's second-largest economy. China will issue fourth-quarter growth data for 2012 as well as GDP growth for the year. Factory output, investment and retail sales will also be released.
Among individual stocks, Australian surf-wear maker Billabong soared 16 percent after receiving its sixth takeover bid in less than six months. Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. fell 3.4 percent following reports that demand for Apple Inc.'s iPhone may be weaker than expected. The company is a leading maker of iPhones.
Benchmark oil for February delivery was down 14 cents to $93.99 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 58 cents to finish at $94.15 per barrel on the Nymex on Monday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3371 from $1.3378 late Monday in New York. The dollar fell to 88.73 yen from 89.41 yen.
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