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Japan stocks rise on insurance merger reports

Japan stocks rise on insurance merger reports

Japanese stocks rose for a third straight session Monday, lifted by hopes for mergers in the insurance and semiconductor sectors.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average rose 7.65 points, or 0.1 percent, to 8,747.17 in thin year-end trading. The broader Topix index rose 1 percent to 854.17.

Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Group Holdings Inc. surged 8.3 percent to 2,885 yen after the Nikkei financial daily reported that Japan's No. 2 nonlife insurer was in negotiations to integrate operations with two smaller rivals.

The new entity with Aioi Insurance Co. and Nissay Dow General Insurance Co. would be Japan's biggest nonlife insurer. Aioi soared 19.2 percent to 484 yen and Nissay Dowa General Insurance Co. jumped 14.9 percent to 578 yen.

With investors unexcited by the government's response so far to the global financial crisis, the merger news boosted sentiment and confidence that the private sector is seeking its own solutions, said Kenichi Hirano, equity general manager at Tachibana Securities in Tokyo.

"The market is reacting very positively to this effort within the insurance sector to make some big changes on its own," he said.

Chipmaker Elpida Memory Inc. also benefited from merger speculation, rising 13.2 percent to 585 yen.

The computer memory chip producer has said it is in talks with Taiwanese chipmakers including Powerchip Semiconductor Corp. in a bid to strengthen operations in an increasingly competitive market.

Major exporters were mixed, with Sony Corp. adding 2.8 percent to 1,900 yen but Canon Inc. down 0.9 percent at 2,695 yen.

In currencies, the dollar was trading almost unchanged at 90.44 yen. The euro stood at $1.4197 from $1.4031.