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Nikkei rises on financials and exporters; builders off…

TOKYO, Dec 18 (Reuters) – Japanese stocks scored their biggest rise in over a month on Monday with financials and exporters in hot demand, while construction shares bounced after sliding on news that prosecutors had raided the headquarters of at least two builders for alleged antitrust violations.

The Nikkei share average finished 1.55 percent higher at 22,901.77, its biggest gain since Nov. 7 and its highest closing level in a week.

Sentiment was boosted by a strong performance on Wall Street on Friday on expectations U.S. lawmakers will pass a long-awaited tax bill.

The banking and insurance sectors were among top sectoral performers, soaring 2.37 percent and 2.80 percent, respectively.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group jumped 2.89 percent, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group advanced 1.54 percent and Dai-ichi Life Holdings rose 2.84 percent.

Exporters also gained ground, with Toyota Motor up 2.81 percent, Honda Motor rising 1.27 percent and TDK Corp advancing 2.55 percent.

The construction sector edged up 0.12 percent, erasing earlier losses driven by news Tokyo prosecutors had raided the headquarters of at least two of Japan’s biggest construction firms for alleged antitrust violations linked to $80 billion worth of magnetic levitation (maglev) train line projects.

Shimizu Corp and Kajima Corp were raided early on Monday morning, spokesmen for the two companies separately said, sending their stocks down 2.44 percent and 2.68 percent, respectively.

The broader Topix advanced 1.36 percent to 1,817.90. (Reporting by Lisa Twaronite and Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Jacqueline Wong & Shri Navaratnam)

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