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Equities

Asian stocks extend strong start to 2018 on global growth optimism

Seoul and Shanghai pace advances, while Hong Kong slips; Japan closed for holiday

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan extended their rally on Monday after U.S. equity indexes set fresh record highs last week, as signs of improving global economic growth stoked investors' risk appetite.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index, a gauge of influential regional companies outside of Japan, was up 0.4% to 1,465.54 by midday on Monday, following a 3.2% increase last week. South Korea's Kospi and China's Shanghai Composite Index led gains among regional equity benchmarks, advancing 0.3% and 0.4%, respectively. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index had slipped 0.04% by the noon break, after retreating as much as 0.3% earlier in the day. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.

Optimism over global growth fueled equity gains across the world during the first week of 2018, after U.S. and China reported strong factory activity data. All three major equity indexes on Wall Street ended last week at record highs.

"World indexes have been breaking record highs, and I think under the current environment they will continue to rise," said Qiu Zhicheng, executive director and strategist at ICBC International Research. "Economic data, including those from China, Japan and South Korea, have been rather fine, and the overall liquidity situation is rather good."

Tencent Holdings, Hong Kong's most valuable company and the heaviest weighted stock on Nikkei's Asia300 gauge, added 0.9% following its best weekly advance since August 2016. In Seoul, electronics major Samsung Electronics edged 0.04% lower and drugmaker Celltrion jumped 12.2% to a record high.

Chinese airlines listed in Hong Kong advanced, with China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Air China jumping 5.5%, 7.8% and 9%, respectively. China's National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top planning agency, and the Civil Aviation Administration of China, on Dec. 17 published a notice to further liberalize the pricing for air-passenger travel, state media China News reported on Friday.

Mainland developers extended gains on Monday as upbeat sales numbers for last year lured investors. China Overseas Land & Investment and China Vanke each rose 4.1% in Hong Kong by midday after climbing more than 11% each last week. Real-estate company Greenland Holdings surged 9% in Shanghai after a 21% jump last week.

China's Anhui Conch Cement was up 4.4% in Hong Kong after saying it expects 2017 profit to have risen between 70% and 90% year-over-year.

India's benchmark BSE Sensex rose 0.5%, heading for a fresh record high. Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, the nation's largest drugmaker by market value, added 3.9%, while software-services major Infosys rose 1% in Mumbai.

In Malaysia, Sapura Energy jumped 7.4%, while plantation major Sime Darby climbed 1.8%. Sime Darby surged more than 25% last week amid optimism over earnings from its industrial business.

-- Benny Kung

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