Asia-Pacific Markets

Asia Ends Broadly Higher, Led by Hong Kong Rally

Asian stocks closed broadly higher Monday with markets taking cues from a Wall Street rally triggered by surprisingly strong economic data, while the Japanese yen weakened against the U.S. dollar as risk appetite strengthened.

Exporters and U.S.-linked firms helped lead the rally in Asian equities after the solid U.S. housing and durable goods numbers on Friday. The reports helped quell fears about the impact of the worst credit market turmoil of the decade on the outlook for global growth.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average closed just slightly higher as KDDI extended gains on profit prospects and auto stocks such as Honda Motor advanced on a softer yen. But bank, securities and other financial stocks were down, curbing gains in the broader TOPIX Index as investors cautious ahead of some U.S. key economic data sold these stocks.

The yen fell broadly after the continuing recovery in global stocks renewed investor appetite for riskier bets, including those that involve selling the low-yielding Japanese currency for assets in higher ones. The yen had rallied earlier this month as the turmoil in global credit markets slashing demand for riskier investments and prompted investors to bail out of yen carry trades.

South Korea's KOSPI gained 0.7%, pushing on after its best week in nearly five years, as
vessel makers such as Daewoo Shipbuilding rallied following good July results and continued rack up fresh orders. POSCO surged after a brokerage forecast higher steel prices in the autumn, while SK Energy gained on a newspaper report the oil refiner was considering a
stake swap with an affiliate.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index finished 1.4% higher as strong earnings and an upbeat outlook lifted top retailer Woolworths, while U.S.-exposed firms such as CSL rose on surprisingly strong U.S. economic data.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index closed up 2.9%. Shares in mainland companies leapt as much as 4.2% amid expectations that mainland investors would snatch them as China's move to allow direct offshore investment kicks off this week.  Aluminum Corp of China , Datang Power and other Chinese shares trading at a wide discount to their mainland-listed, yuan-denominated counterparts soared to records in heavy trade. At one point, Chalco rallied as much as 38% and Datang as much as 19%.

Singapore's Straits Times Index was 1.1% higher. Cosco rose as much as 3%, extending gains on Friday after the shipbuilding and repair firm said that it had won contracts worth about $700 million.

China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.8% to a fresh record high, buoyed by the blue chips favored by mutual funds, although most stocks fell on profit-taking.