Hong Kong, China shares surge on reform plans, leading region's gains
China's broad-based reform plans got a thumbs-up from the markets, with Hong Kong and mainland shares climbing Monday, leading regional gains, with positive cues from Wall Street Friday providing a fillip.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped 2.7 percent to end at 23,660.1, its highest close since February, while China's Shanghai Composite tacked on 2.9 percent to end at 2197.22. The Nikkei 225 ended essentially flat, down 1.62 point at 15,164.30 after surging 7.7 percent last week, while Korea's Kospi index finished up 0.3 percent at 2010.81.
India's Sensex added 2.23 percent to 20,853.37, tracking regional gains, bolstered by hopes the U.S. Federal Reserve will continue its stimulus program.
Bucking the trend, Australian shares fell, with the S&P/ASX shedding 0.3 percent to end at 5377.90.
Hong Kong, China shares rise
China late on Friday unveiled bold reform plans from its Third Plenum, including easing the one-child policy, implementing residence registration reforms, allowing market pricing of key resources and further financial liberalization.
"The reform package will have a long-lasting positive impact on China's equity market outlook," Deutsche Bank said in a report, forecasting the MSCI China index would rise 20-25 percent over the next 12 months.
(Read more: China's economic reforms: What you need to know)
"We expect market sentiment to be significantly lifted, as investors will gradually understand the increase in China's growth potential and the improving sustainability of the economic, financial, real estate, and social security systems due to reforms," it said.
Citigroup said the reforms allowing the issuance of municipal bonds will be positive for banks, while deposit-rate liberalization would be positive for insurance, brokerage and consumer finance firms.
In a report, Nomura recommended pursuing an investment theme of a shift toward "good," mass-market driven consumption, adding its model portfolio overweights mass-market consumption proxies including brokers and insurers.
In Hong Kong, China banks rallied, with China Merchants Bank climbing 9.4 percent, Bank of China up 3.6 percent and Agricultural Bank of China up 5 percent. Brokerage Citic Securities surged 13 percent, while China Life added 8.7 percent and Ping An Insurance climbed 9.5 percent.
Australian shares slump
While Australian shares are often swayed by developments in major trading partner China, Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG, said shares were correcting after strong rises on Thursday and Friday, when the index rose a cumulative 1.5 percent. In a note, Goldman Sachs said the ASX 200 index is trading at 15 times its forward earnings, 12 percent above its 10-year average.
Lucas also expects to see some volatility from the mainland markets ahead, with reform benefits for Australian shares unlikely to be immediate. He expects China may crack down on corruption and speculative lending, with mainland repo rates to rise.
"The plenum talks in decades, not overnight," Lucas said.
"Consumption demand will remain; Australian resources will remain a consumption target of Chinese users along with Australian services and agricultural goods. The hard landing some are predicting will most likely be a bump," said Lucas in a note.
Some of Australia's big-four banks were lower, with Australia & New Zealand Banking slipping 0.6 percent and Commonwealth Bank of Australia losing 0.6 percent. Lucas attributed the decline to a correction after the sector touched record highs last week and as the shares went ex-dividend.
Warrnambool Cheese climbed 2.1 percent to 9.29 Australian dollars after it resumed trade amid expectations rival suitors for Australia's oldest dairy company could emerge. Canadian dairy company Saputo sweetened its takeover bid by 12.5 percent Friday to 9 Australian dollars a share ($8.43), with the Australian company's board unanimously recommending its offer over bids from rivals Bega Cheese and Murray Goulburn Co-operative.
Japan exporters mixed
In Japan, the index ended off highs after the yen gave up some of its recent gains. The U.S. dollar was fetching 100.07 yen, after rising as high as 100.39 in earlier trade. Reuters reported U.S. macro funds were selling shares and buying the yen on profit-taking.
Amid the slight strengthening of the yen, exporters were mixed, with Sony ending up 0.9 percent after rising nearly 12 percent last week. Toyota was down 0.3 percent after rising 2.7 percent last week, while Kyocera lost 1.7 percent after gaining 7.6 percent last week.
Comments last week from Yellen, who is on course to become the central bank's next chairman, suggested changes to the Fed's asset-buying program likely weren't on the cards for this year.
Singapore-listed Suntec REIT added 1.6 percent after it bought a North Sydney office tower, to be developed by Leighton, for $413 million.
— By CNBC.com's Leslie Shaffer. Follow her on Twitter at @LeslieShaffer1