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Asia: Markets extend rally as Hong Kong eyes record

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[HONG KONG] Asian traders continued their blistering start to the year on Monday with most markets rising and Hong Kong within spitting distance of its record high, while the euro extended its gains against the dollar.

Wall Street once again provided a strong lead on the back of optimism about corporate earnings in light of Donald Trump's tax cuts as well as the improving global economic outlook.

Hong Kong led the way in early business on Monday, rising for a record 15th straight session and a little more than 300 points short of its all-time high of 31,958.41 hit in October 2007.

The Hang Seng Index has climbed more than seven percent, supported by the broad global advance as well as a surge in mainland investors attracted by relatively cheaper valuations compared with Shanghai and Shenzhen.

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Among other markets Tokyo ended the morning session 0.2 per cent higher despite a stronger yen, with market heavyweight Softbank almost four percent higher on reports it could list its mobile unit, raising up to US$18 billion in one of Japan's biggest public offerings.

Shanghai was up 0.2 per cent, Sydney gained 0.1 per cent, Seoul was up 0.2 per cent and Singapore added 0.4 per cent. Taipei, Manila and Jakarta were all higher though Wellington dipped slightly.

'UNSTOPPABLE RUN'

"Investors continue basking in the afterglow of US tax reform assuming there will be no end to this unstoppable run, which is now feeding off US domestic economic strength and a stronger global growth narrative," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at Oanda.

"As we enter earnings season, the fear of missing out mindset takes hold, but if the markets remain at this pace, we could breach my 2018 year-end global stock market forecast before the end of February, which will for once leave me honestly lost for words."

The euro added to its gains against the dollar after hitting a three-year high Friday on the back of news that Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU party was close to a deal with the Social Democrats - Germany's second biggest party - to form a new coalition.

While some members of the Social Democrats were sceptical about the deal, the breakthrough looked to have brought an end to months of uncertainty in Europe's biggest economy.

That came a day after minutes from the European Central Bank's December board meeting showed members were considering altering their guidance on policy in light of the eurozone's improving economy, suggesting it is leaning towards winding down its crisis-era stimulus programme.

The euro was holding above US$1.22 in Asia, having surged from around US$1.2060 on Friday.

The dollar was also struggling against the yen and pound as dealers brushed aside improving US inflation data, while recent moves by the Bank of Japan have fuelled speculation it is about to tighten monetary policy.

AFP

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