Asia-Pacific Markets

Asian Markets Close Higher, Australia Sets Record High

Asian markets closed firmly higher Monday with Australia setting a new record close, though trading was light due to holidays in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 1.5% to set an all-time closing high, as BHP Billiton hit a record on a report it will announce an upgrade to its gold reserves, while Orica gained on a U.S. acquisition.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index breached the 26,000 level to finish 2.6% higher amid strong buying interest in financial stocks and as oil shares cheered high crude prices. A trading was in place for Air China and Cathay Pacific shares with speculation rife that the two are making a joint effort to block Singapore Airlines' bid for a stake in China Eastern Airlines.

Singapore's Straits Times Index was finished 2.7% higher. Shares of Singapore Exchange jumped as much as 11% to a record on hopes that the exchange operator would be an acquisition target amid accelerating bourse consolidation worldwide. But shares of Singapore Airlines fell as much as 2.7% amid newspaper reports that Cathay Pacific Airways may derail Singapore Air's plan to acquire a stake in China Eastern Airlines.

Most Chinese stocks were weaker as Shenhua Energy began taking subscriptions for its massive IPO, although sharp rises in some resources and industrial blue chips pushed up the main index slightly.

Markets in Japan and South Korea are closed for holidays.  Japanese markets will reopen Tuesday while South Korea comes back to work on Thursday.

The Tokyo market is expected to struggle in what is the last week of the fiscal first half for many companies.  Seoul is likely to play catch-up to global events, especially in U.S. markets, when they resume trading on Thursday following a three-day public holiday, but trading is likely to be light, with many traders expected to take off the entire week.