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Stocks gain...Consumer confidence report due...Panasonic and Tesla make battery deal

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TOKYO (AP) — International stock markets are mostly higher as the last week of trading for the year begins following the Christmas holidays. Most benchmarks stayed in a narrow range. Futures point to a downbeat Wall Street open today. Then dollar gained against the yen and the euro. Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose but remains under $53.50 a barrel.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Conference Board will give its latest measure of consumer confidence this morning with the release of its index from December. Lately, American consumers have been feeling more confident about the economy. In November, the board's index surged to 107.1, the highest level in more than nine years. And respondents' assessment of current economic conditions was the sunniest since July 2007. Last month's survey was mostly taken before the Nov. 8 election.

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese electronics company Panasonic and U.S. electric car maker Tesla have announced plans to begin production of photovoltaic cells and modules at a factory in Buffalo, New York. The two companies said today they finalized an agreement calling for Tokyo-based Panasonic to pay capital costs for the manufacturing. Palo Alto, California-based Tesla made a "long-term purchase commitment" to Panasonic.

BEIJING (AP) — China says it's hitting the accelerator pedal on its space industry. Beijing issued a white paper today, setting out the country's space strategy for the next five years including plans to become the first country to soft land a probe on the far side of the moon, by around 2018, and launch its first Mars probe by 2020. China says it aims to use space for peaceful purposes and to guarantee national security.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — With the year of the rooster close at hand on the Asian zodiac bird flu is causing worries in South Korea where egg prices are soaring and new year's festivals are being canceled. The country is experiencing its worst bird flu outbreak in a decade. The government says that about 26 million head of poultry will be culled by tomorrow, including about one-third of the country's egg-laying hens.

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