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European Stocks Flat in Thin Holiday Trading; Asia Gains

Stocks in Europe were flat Monday, despite strength in Asian markets, with trading thin due to public holidays.

Markets in Germany, the U.K. and Switzerland are all shut. And the U.S. market is closed for Memorial Day.

The Paris CAC-40 was basically unchanged, while the Madrid IBEX was slightly higher.

France Telecom added 0.6% after the country's leading telecom operator kicked off a formal review of bids for part, or all, of its Orange unit in the Netherlands, Reuters reported.

And OMX rose 6% on a report that Dubai is interested in making a bid for the Scandinavian exchange operator, which agreed to be bought by the Nasdaq on Friday.

"If we have a sell-off today, which could happen, but then the question is will people then look at that sell-off as an opportunity to re-enter the market and I think they will," Michala Marcussen, director of strategy and economic research at Societe Generale Asset Management, told Reuters.

"Something has to go horribly wrong on the fundamental side for people to lose their appetite for equities today."

Tokyo Finishes Higher; China Rises Sharply

Asian stocks rose in the aftnoon session Monday, with markets in China and South Korea hitting records. Japan also closed higher in thin trading.

The U.S. currency hovered near a three-month high against the yen and a six-week peak against the euro as traders bet that weak U.S. housing data late last week was not enough to warrant a cut in U.S. interest rates later in the year.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average finished higher in thin trade as higher commodities prices lifted Sumitomo Metal Mining while NGK Insulators climbed after Credit Suisse lifted its target price. Japan Steel Works hit a lifetime high after reports that China would boost its nuclear power generation capacity. The market showed little reaction to reports that a member of Japan's cabinet had killed himself.

In South Korea, the Kospi Index rose to end at a new record as brokerages such as Daewoo Securities rallied after analysts raised their end-year forecasts for the market amid a growing chorus of bullish calls. Retailers such as Lotte also gained as investors went shopping in sectors seen as having underperformed.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index closed a touch lower to post a third straight session of losses, as lingering worries about an overheating Chinese stock market prompted investors to book profits in big banks. But top miners rose on a rally in base metal prices, keeping losses in the broader market in check.

Chinese stocks surged in heavy trade, hitting an all-time high, as individual investors continued to pour fresh money into the market despite increasing caution among some institutions. Traders said there was no fresh, major positive news behind the rally, but individual investors were encouraged by the market's strength last week in the face of an interest rate hike and former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan's warning that stocks were dangerously overvalued. Many investors have dismissed Greenspan's view as misguided. The Chinese market ended up 2.2%.

Hong Kong ended little changed following a sharp decline in the last session, with Sinopec leaping on news of a gas find near its Puguang field.

Singapore's Straits Times Index finished 0.8% higher with shares in Soup Restaurant up 26% in its market debut on the Singapore exchange.

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