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Asian Markets Close Higher in Global Rally

Asian markets closed higher across the board Thursday, with banking and technology stocks climbing after gains on Wall Street. Australia closed at a new peak while Japan finished at a six-week high.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average finished up 2.4% to end at a six-week closing high as investors, encouraged by gains on Wall Street, bought recent poor performers while Hitachi surged on a possible unit sale. Amid easing concern about fallout from subprime problems, bank and brokerage firms rang up hefty gains while shares in consumer finance firms, the worst performing sector this year, lured buyers looking for bargains. Mitsui Fudosan and other property stocks gained ground after Deutsche Securities' upgrade.

South Korea's KOSPI rose to their highest since a record in late July led by exporters such as Samsung Electronics as expectations for more U.S. rate cuts are easing worries about South Korea's No. 2 overseas market. Gains were underpinned by confidence about economic growth at home, with financials such as Shinhan Financial Group and retailers such as Hyundai Department Store advancing on data showing consumer sentiment at a five-year high.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index ended 0.9% higher at a record closing peak, as recently underperforming financial stocks such as Babcock & Brown and Macquarie Bank climbed on optimism over improved deal flows.

Hong Kong stocks rallied across the board as money poured into the region, with China Mobile ramping up further to lead a sector rally amid persistent speculation of an industry revamp. The Hang Seng Index finished 2.4% higher to breach the 27,000 level and set a new record high. Massive buying pushed blue chips up 2.2%, while China plays rose 2%, as China Life led strong gains across the insurance sector.

Singapore's Straits Times Index also struck a new record, closing 1.8% higher, just two months after the fallout of the U.S. subprime crisis started to hit global markets. Singapore Telecommunications, Keppel Corp, and Singapore's three banks, DBS Group Holdings, United Overseas Bank and OCBC all advanced.

Chinese stocks were mixed in very low turnover as initial public offerings drew liquidity from the market and the approach of next week's long National Day holiday period made investors cautious. But the Shanghai Composite Index finished 1.3% higher