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Nikkei rises on strong U.S. growth data; exporters enjoy weak yen

* Nikkei advances on back of record day on Wall Street * GDP figures emphasise rosy U.S. prospects * Exporters shares enjoy weaker yen By Thomas Wilson TOKYO, Dec 24(Reuters) - Japanese stocks rallied on Wednesday after Wall Street raced to a record closing-high on the back of data showing decisive strength in the U.S. economy, which lifted risk appetite and backed last week's upbeat assessment by the Federal Reserve.

The Nikkei benchmark added 1.1 percent to 17,835.45 by 0125 GMT, its highest since Dec. 9. Japanese markets were closed on Tuesday for a public holiday. The average is set for its fifth consecutive day of gains.

On Wall Street the Dow closed above 18,000 for the first time ever on Tuesday, and the S&P 500 also hit a record high, after the U.S. economy grew at an annualised 5.0 percent in the third quarter, its best in 11 years and well above the 3.9 percent reported last month.

Fuelled by consumer and business spending, the figures emphasise the divergence between the U.S. economy and the rest of the world, where growth is either modest or scarce, and brought a measure of calm to investors buffeted by global turbulence in the past two weeks.

The GDP data also gave credence to last week's upbeat economic assessment by the Fed, which also promised to be patient in moving towards tightening interest rates.

"America's strong economy is pushing the dollar up and the yen down, and that's a big plus for Japanese exporters related to the U.S.," said Hiroyuki Nakai, chief strategist at Tokai Tokyo Research Center.

The dollar broke through the 120 mark against the yen for the first time in over a fortnight, creeping back towards a 7-1/2 year high and boosting Japanese exporters shares.

Automakers Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co Ltd advanced 1.7 percent and 1.9 percent respectively, while Panasonic Corp jumped 1.5 percent.

Market heavyweights also performed well, with Uniqlo clothes brand owner Fast Retailing surging 2.5 percent, roughly a quarter of the Nikkei's overall gain.

The broader Topix gained 0.9 percent to 1,425.18, while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 advanced 0.8 percent to 12,946.84.

(Reporting by Thomas Wilson; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)