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Japan's Nikkei market standout with 3.8 pct surge

LONDON (AP) — Japan's Nikkei's was the stock market standout Wednesday, surging to its highest level since Sept. 2008 as the yen slid to a three-year low against the dollar on news the country's central bank governor will resign earlier than planned.

The Nikkei surged 3.8 percent, or 416.83 points, to close at 11,463.75 as export shares soared on expectations of stronger sales thanks to the yen's slide against other major currencies. A lower currency should help make Japanese products more competitive in international markets and potentially get the Japanese economy going again.

With Toyota Motor Corp. jumping 6 percent, Honda Motor Corp. adding 3.3 percent and Sony climbing 3.8 percent, investors appear more hopeful about the Japanese economy, which has been in stagnation for the best part of 20 years.

The Nikkei's surge came as the yen fell sharply after the Bank of Japan governor, Masaaki Shirakawa, said he will step down three weeks early on March 19, for logistical reasons. Some investors took it as a sign that his replacement will be more likely to comply with the new government's wish to ease monetary policy and cheapen the yen.

"The decision has put further pressure on the yen, which has now fallen more than 20 percent against the dollar since September," said Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari.

It was while the dollar surged to 94.05 yen that Japanese stocks posted their gains. Since the close, the dollar's eased back to around 93.66 yen.

Elsewhere, stock markets were more lackluster.

Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.4 percent at 6,307 while the CAC-40 in France fell 0.5 percent to 3,678. Germany's DAX lost 0.2 percent to 7,649.

Wall Street was poised for a steady opening with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent.

Following a jittery performance on Monday, when European debt issues returned to stalk investors, markets have stabilized and the Dow Jones industrial average will remain in focus as it heads towards all-time highs.

"The correction in equity markets earlier in the week has proved short-lived though the political concerns in Spain and Italy that prompted the correction have not gone away," said Neil MacKinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.

Earlier in Asia, other markets besides the Nikkei eked out some gains after suffering Tuesday.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.5 percent to 23,256.93 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.8 to 4,921. In mainland China, the Shenzhen Composite Index added 0.5 to 951.52 while the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1 to 2,434.48.

In other markets, the euro was down 0.3 percent at $1.3555 while a barrel of benchmark New York crude oil was 52 cents lower at $96.12.

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Elaine Kurtenbach in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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