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Most Asian markets end flat; Hong Kong hits record high

Most Asian markets end flat; Hong Kong hits record high

Most Asian markets closed flat Tuesday with both Hong Kong and Taiwan making a strong year to 2007.
Hong Kong stocks hit a record high, led by heavyweight China Mobile, while Taiwan rose to a fresh six-year high.
Financial markets in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, China, Singapore and New Zealand were closed on Tuesday.
Hong Kong's blue-chip Hang Seng Index rose 345.46 points, or 1.73 percent, to close at 20,310.18.
Analysts said the local market will maintain its upward momentum in the near term as investors continue to believe Chinese companies will benefit from a further appreciation of the Chinese yuan.
China Mobile, the largest mobile operator in China by subscribers and the second-largest component of the benchmark index by market capitalization, contributed 145.9 points, or 42 percent, of the Hang Seng Index's 345.46-point gain.
The Chinese mobile operator rose 3.7 percent on a report it might seek a listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
Ming Pao Daily, a Hong Kong-based Chinese language newspaper, on Monday cited unnamed sources as saying China Mobile is seeking to launch an A-share initial public offering this year.
Chinese banks and insurance stocks continued to surge amid a rally in the local market.
China's biggest bank, ICBC, the most heavily traded stock Tuesday with 3.34 billion worth of shares changing hands, soared 5.8 percent.
Analysts said a proposed reform to unify the corporate taxes of domestic and foreign firms in China will boost the future earnings of ICBC, the world's second-largest bank by market capitalization after Citigroup Inc.
China Construction Bank ended 2.8 percent, while Bank of China was up 4.9 percent.
In Taiwan, the Weighted Price Index of the Taiwan Stock Exchange gained 97.08 points, or 1.2 percent, to 7,920.8 _ its highest closing level since finishing at 8,026.32 on Aug. 25, 2000.
The index climbed 19.48 percent in 2006.
The financial sector gained 2.6 percent overall Tuesday on a positive business growth outlook.
"Some investors expect (the government will lift bans to allow) local banks to conduct Chinese yuan currency exchange business in the near future," said KGI Securities trader Randy Chang.
Elsewhere:
MANILA: Philippine shares declined as investors cashed in on gains in select stocks that propelled the market to 10-year highs. The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange Index lost 0.2 percent, or 5.69 points, at 2,976.85.
SEOUL: South Korean technology stocks, including semiconductor shares, rose. But the overall market closed flat as those gains were cancelled out by losses in bank stocks following the government's moves to place restrictions on mortgage loans. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, ended up 0.8 point, or 0.06 percent, at 1,435.26.
SYDNEY: The Australian share market closed near flat after late profit-taking on some of last week's stellar performers countered morning gains. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.3 point at 5,670.2.
TAIPEI: Taiwan shares opened the year by rising to a new six-year high as foreign investors returned from their holidays. The Weighted Price Index of the Taiwan Stock Exchange gained 97.08 points, or 1.2 percent, to 7,920.8 _ its highest closing level since finishing at 8,026.32 on Aug. 25, 2000. The index climbed 19.48 percent in 2006.