HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong's benchmark stock index is flirting with an all-time closing high level as Asian stock markets advanced on Monday following yet another rally on Wall Street.
The Hang Seng Index had risen 0.6% to 31,590.97 by noon, after rising as high as 31,722.37 earlier in the day. A close above 31,638.22 points would be a record for the gauge.
Leading gains, casino operators Sands China and Galaxy Entertainment Group rose 7.8% and 3.7%, respectively. Ping An Insurance Group climbed 3.5%, taking year-to-date gains to almost 10%, while China Construction Bank (CCB) rose 1.4%. A gauge of large mainland companies listed in Hong Kong added 0.9%, on course for a 12th straight gain.
The Hang Seng Index, itself poised for a record 15th consecutive advance, has risen 5.6% since the start of 2018 to outperform regional peers while U.S. equity indexes have repeatedly touched record highs amid buoyant risk appetite. The Nikkei Asia300 Index added 0.8% on Monday, after all three major share benchmarks on Wall Street closed at record highs on Friday.
Ronald Wan, chief executive of brokerage Partners Capital International, said besides U.S. markets rising to records, "strong liquidity in the markets supported by southbound flows and investor expectations for better corporate earnings" were also aiding Hong Kong markets.
The December-quarter earnings season for U.S. companies begins this week, while many Hong Kong-listed companies are scheduled to report their 2017 results next month.
In the mainland, the Shanghai Composite slipped 0.1% on Monday morning while the onshore traded yuan climbed 0.6% against the U.S. dollar to 6.4238.
Dongfeng Motor Group fell 1.6% in Hong Kong after the Chinese carmaker reported a 5% drop in December sales to 343,842 vehicles.
Property developer China Jinmao Holdings Group fell 3.8% to HK$3.82 after saying it plans to sell 900.1 million new shares to shareholder Sinochem Hong Kong (Group) at HK$3.70 apiece. It was the most actively traded stock in Hong Kong during the morning session.
Waste-treatment technology company Capital Environment Holdings climbed 2.8% after saying it expects at least a 150% on-year increase in net profit for the year ended Dec. 31.
Kong Sun Holdings advanced 5.6% after reporting an 87% increase in 2017 electricity generation volume.
-- Carrie Chen