By Kenan Machado
Equities in Hong Kong and mainland China led gains in the Asia-Pacific region Tuesday, though stocks in Malaysia and Australia fell to begin the new year.
The Hang Seng was recently up 1.8% and the Shanghai Composite climbed 1.1%.
Chinese messaging-and-gaming heavyweight Tencent's 2.6% gain contributed 75 points to the Hang Seng's 550-point advance. The index is within 5% of 2007's record intraday.
But financials were the most-important segment for the benchmark, making up more than half of the advance amid broad 2% gains. HSBC and China Construction Bank hit fresh multiyear highs.
"Most of the bad news is behind us and some stocks are seen as underpriced by speculative buyers," said Linus Yip, an equities strategist at First Shanghai Securities.
Last year, Hong Kong-listed Sunny Optical and AAC Technologies lost about a third of their market value in a month, following a global tech pullback which began in November. On Tuesday, the suppliers of smartphone components jumped 9% and 7% respectively.
Largan Precision, which makes lenses for smartphone cameras, closed up 5.9% in Taiwan after skidding 22% in December. It helped the Taiex end 0.6% higher and finish at a five-week best.
Solid Chinese manufacturing data showed the sector remained healthy, said Krystal Tan of Capital Economics. Global economic growth "and accommodative domestic monetary policy should help keep Asian manufacturing sectors in good shape," she said.
One laggard Tuesday was Australia, where the stock benchmark fell 0.1% despite gains in commodity stocks. Banks, a big portion of the equities market there, started 2018 lower. Analysts have previously expressed concerns that higher global interest rates could add to the economic pressure from high household debt in Australia. The S&P/ASX 200 overall ended 2017 with its best three months since the first quarter of 2015.
Malaysia's index also fell 0.9% to reverse the sharp adjustment higher at the end of Friday's trading. Big end-of-session gains of some 10% seen in the likes of Sime Darby Plantation and KLCC Property were largely reversed Tuesday.
The drop came as neighboring Singapore and Indonesia logged gains of as much as 1% Tuesday, with the latter's stock benchmark on pace to post its 10th record high in the past 11 sessions.
Markets in Japan and New Zealand were closed Tuesday.
In currencies, the U.S. dollar started 2018 as it ended last year--lower. The WSJ Dollar Index was recently off 0.1% after falling to its lowest level since late September on Friday. Last year, the index slid 7.5%, its worst year since 2003.
Write to Kenan Machado at [email protected]