Asian Stocks Close Higher, Pakistan Falls

Asian stocks ended mostly higher Monday in thin holiday trading, with most investors away to usher in the new year. But Pakistan's shares slid in its first reaction to the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto whose death last week plunged the country into one of its deepest crises.

The benchmark Karachi Stock Exchange 100-share index fell 4.7 percent, close to the market's limit of 5 percent.

In greater China, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended 1.6 percent higher to end the year at 27,812.65, ringing up a 39 percent gain for 2007 to make the index Asia's fifth best-performing bourse this year, and representing its best annual rise since 1999.

Energy stocks led Monday's rise as oil bounced above $96 on geopolitical worries. China's top offshore oil and gas producer CNOOC jumped 3.1 percent and top Asia oil and gas producer PetroChina rose 1.9 percent at the close.

Top Asian oil refiner Sinopec gained 0.7 percent after it unveiled a plan to buy interests in three oil refineries and 63 petrol stations from its parent for a total of 3.66 billion yuan.

China EasternAirlines jumped 6.2 percent while Air China surged 7 percent after sources told Reuters on Friday that Air China's chairman had been appointed chief of China's civil aviation regulator.

The news comes ahead of a vote on Jan. 8 by China Eastern shareholders -- which include the parent of Air China -- on a deal by Singapore Airlines and Temasek Holdings to buy a 24 percent stake in China Eastern for about US$920 million.

Taiwan's TAIEX index extended its rally to finish 1.3 percent higher at 8,506.28, its highest since Dec. 11, after local media said four major government funds will invest NT$300
billion in the local stock market next year.

Investors also cheered news that opposition presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou, who favours closer economic ties with China, was acquitted of corruption charges.

The Taiex has now gained a total of 8.7% in 2007.

Singapore's Straits Times Index gained 1.1 percent after a lower open while the Australian share market was unchanged on Monday in a shortened final trading session of 2007.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index closed flat at 6,339.9. The Australian market racked up a gain of 11.8 percent for the year despite recent volatility -- its fifth consecutive year of gains.

All Japanese financial markets are closed from Monday through Thursday for New Year holidays.
The markets will reopen for a half day of trading on Friday.

South Korean financial markets are also closed on Monday and Tuesday, while trading of bonds will continue over the counter on Monday. The markets will resume trading on Wednesday, starting an hour later than usual.

-- Wires contributed to this story