Asia-Pacific Markets

China, Hong Kong Hit New Record Closes in Firm Trading

Several Asian markets raced ahead to rack up record gains at the start of the week. China's Shanghai Composite Index closed 2.2% higher as investors piled into oil stocks such as Sinopec following fresh highs for the commodity. 

Hong Kong also staged an oil-inspired rally, as PetroChina's H-shares drove the market higher. The stock surged 10% to a fresh peak at HK$18.28, after China's largest oil producer said it pumped 4.3% more oil and gas, sold at lower prices, in the first nine months of 2007. The Hang Seng Index finished up 2.4%, at a new lifetime high of 29,540.

But Australia failed to sustain its record gains. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index closed 0.2% lower at 6,739 after briefly crossing the 6,800 mark for the first time on the back of a jump in resource stocks. BHP Billiton and Woodside Petroleum both hit new peaks driven by record-high oil prices and firmer base metal prices.

A 12% plunge in AGL Energy shares kept a lid on Australia's gains. Investors hit the sell button on the country's largest energy retailer, leading it to fall to an intraday low of A$13.25, after it cut its 2008  profit forecast due to higher costs and lower margins.

The markets in Japan were mixed with the Nikkei 225 average closing higher , while the broader Topix Index ending marginally lower by 2 points at 1,657.

Seiko Epson rose as much as 3.1% after the Nikkei business daily said on Sunday the company plans to enter the organic electroluminescent (OEL) panel business after it succeeded
in expanding the lifespan of OEL devices. The stock closed 1% higher at 2,920.

Shares of Mitsui Miningand Smelting and Nippon Mining & Metals were also in favor after a newspaper report said that a joint venture between the two companies will invest a total of 200 billion yen ($1.7 billion) by 2011 to develop copper mines in Peru and Chile.

In South Korea, the KOSPI closed 0.44% higher at 2,035 but failed to hit a new high. The market rose on the back of gains in top lender Kookmin Bank and Doosan Heavy Industries.

Shares in shipping firm STX Pan Ocean, which is also listed in Singapore, extended their rally since the stock's debut last month, gaining 14% to 3,500 won, tracking a record-setting run by the Baltic Dry Index.

Meanwhile, Singapore Press Holdings rose 1.3% S$4.54 after the media conglomerate announced an 18% rise in full-year profit Friday. This helped drive the Straits Times Index close slightly higher, up 0.2%.