Asian stock markets posted slight gains Monday after the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season in the U.S. topped expectations, offsetting concerns about Greece's financial crisis.
Americans visited stores and websites in record numbers last Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday that is dubbed "Black Friday" because U.S. retailers traditionally turn a profit as millions of Americans rush out to stores in search of gifts for Christmas and other celebrations.
Surveys showed a record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites between Thursday and Sunday — up 9.2 percent from the year before. Those numbers bode well for retailers and the still-fragile U.S. economy as a whole.
Japan's soft yen continued to boost its critical export sector. The Nikkei 225 index rose 0.7 percent to 9,432.82. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was nearly unchanged at 21,907.99. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2 percent to 4,421.50 and South Korea's Kospi fell 0.1 percent to 1,908.95.
Finance ministers from the countries that use the euro currency will meet later Monday to try to reach an agreement for Greece to receive the next installment of its emergency bailout loan. Athens needs the money to avoid bankruptcy.
Investors have also been focused on whether the White House can come to a deal with Congress to avoid automatic tax increases and spending cuts at the start of next year. Investors remain confident that their worst fears — a U.S. recession and a Greek exit from the euro — will be averted.
"Should both events be concluded successfully, one can only assume we will be in for a good run into the end of the year, and possibly get back to the levels we were trading in the lead up to the US presidential election," said Stan Shamu of IG Markets in Melbourne in an email commentary.
Stocks rose on Friday on Wall Street, which was opened for a half-day. The Dow Jones industrial average shot up 1.4 percent to 13,009. That's the first close above 13,000 for the Dow since election day. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.3 percent, to 1,409. The Nasdaq composite index climbed 1.4 percent to 2,966.
Benchmark crude for January delivery was down 31 cents to $87.97 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 90 cents to finish at $88.28 per barrel on Friday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2951 from $1.2971 late Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 82.30 yen at midmorning from 82.40 yen. Earlier Monday, the dollar rose to 82.59 yen.
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