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Asian Markets Rise, Sydney and Seoul Close Stronger

Asian markets rallied on a Christmas Eve Monday, lifted by technology and bank stocks as stronger-than-expected U.S. consumer spending calmed fears the world's top economy was heading into a recession, while the dollar traded near a six-week high against the yen.

Commodity and energy companies, such as Australia's Woodside Petroleum, were also firmer after copper, gold and oil prices rose. Investors also snapped up banks and technology shares, such as LG Electronics, heartened by a string of strong earnings reports from U.S. bellwethers, including results on Friday from the firm behind the BlackBerry.

Trading activity was slowing as investors took off for the Christmas holidays. The Australian and Hong Kong markets close early on Monday, while Japanese financial markets were shut for the Emperor's birthday, but reopen on Tuesday.

Australian shares finished higher for the second consecutive trading day, after positive leads from the U.S. and Europe on Friday, but local traders were not confident of sustained strength while the subprime lending crisis continues to rattle credit markets. Miners led the market, with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto both ending higher.

Hong Kong stocks climbed 1.8 percent, tracking gains on the U.S. market, with telecoms stocks up on reports the Chinese government will restructure the industry and and oil stocks rallying on higher crude prices.

Singapore's Straits Times Index ended 1.3 percent higher. DBS Group shares rose after Southeast Asia's largest bank, said it did not subscribe to rights shares offered by TMB Bank as part of the latter's $1 billion recapitalisation exercise. The Singapore lender's stake in the loss-making bank is expected to fall to 6.8 percent from the current 16.1 percent after the capital raising.

South Korea's KOSPI gained 2.2 percent, its biggest daily gain in a month, as robust U.S. spending data eased worries about a recession in South Korea's No. 2 export market, lifting firms such as Samsung Electronics.

In markets still trading, Chinese stocks jumped, boosted by talk that the market had established a floor at the November and December lows, though banks were sluggish and property shares remained soft. The Shanghai Composite Index was up over 2 percent.