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Hong Kong, India, South Korea, other markets hit records

Asian markets rose Monday, buoyed by Wall Street's rally on Friday and because a weak U.S. dollar propelled investors into regional markets. Hong Kong, India , Indonesia , Malaysia , South Korea and other regional bourses hit record closes.

New Zealand was the only market to post a loss.

Japanese stocks rose robustly as investors responded positively to earning reports from companies such as Nissan, Nippon Yusen and Sony Corp. The Nikkei 225 average added 1.17 percent to close at 16,698.08 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

"Starting with Sony last week, blue chip companies (have been) fueling the market with positive surprises," said Hiroyuki Fukunaga, chief strategist at Rakuten Securities.

Traders say the Nikkei may trade above 17,000 this week if the U.S. Federal Reserve cuts its benchmark rate to 4.5 percent from the current 4.75 percent when it meets Wednesday.

Financial shares performed well after U.S. mortgage lender Countrywide Financial on Friday surprised investors with a better-than-expected earnings outlook for the fourth quarter and next year.

Mizuho Financial Group Inc. added 5.6 percent. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. jumped 9.5 percent.

Nissan Motor Co. raced ahead 14 percent after it reported earnings Friday and several brokerages, including Nomura Securities, raised their ratings on the company.

Although Nissan reported a 27 percent decline in profit for the most recent quarter, investors were encouraged by its 5.3 percent rise in group operating profit during the six-month period through September over the same period of last year, traders said.

Other gainers included Nippon Yusen K.K., which climbed 8.4 percent after reporting its group net profit for April-September soared 86.1 percent on year.

Meanwhile, abundant liquidity and expectations of a U.S. rate cut pushed Hong Kong shares to their third straight record close Monday.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index jumped 3.9 percent to close at 31,586.9, its first close over 31,000.

The market's sharp advance stirred speculation of a correction.

"The madness won't last too long," said Francis Lun, general manager of Fulbright Securities. The market could suffer a major sell-off as early as November, he said, though the benchmark Hang Seng Index might first soar as high as 35,000.

Some other analysts say shares still have room to run.

Money has been flooding into Asia, with a weak U.S. dollar prompting traders to seek investments across the region. The traders are betting the U.S. Fed will cut its key interest rate later in the week, further weakening the dollar and driving more investment in Asia.

"It is a liquidity-driven market. Although there are signs that show the market is overheating, a major correction doesn't necessarily have to take place next," said Ben Kwong, associate director of KGI Asia.

The advance Monday lifted all but two of the Hang Seng's 40 components.

Bank of Communications Ltd. jumped 10.6 percent, after HSBC said Friday it plans to raise its stake in China's fifth-largest lender by assets to 19.9 percent, from 19.0 percent now. Conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa rose 8.4 percent.

On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1 percent to 13,806.7.

In Tokyo's currency market, the dollar was trading at 114.24 yen at 4:50 p.m. (0750 GMT), up from 114.22 yen late Friday in New York. The euro rose to US$1.4426 from US$1.4385.

Elsewhere:

BANGKOK: Thailand's main stock index rose 2.3 percent to 915.03 as rising oil prices led investors to buy energy blue chips.

JAKARTA: Indonesia's benchmark index rose 1.6 percent to a record close at 2,667.5 on foreign buying ahead of an expected rate cut in the U.S.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur Composite Index rose 1 percent to a record finish at 1,411.6 in heavy volume. Foreign and local funds bought stocks across all sectors, dealers said.

MANILA: Philippine financial markets were closed Monday for a public holiday. Trading resumes Tuesday.

MUMBAI: Indian shares soared to a record high as foreign fund buying propelled the key stock index across the 20,000 level for the first time. The Bombay Stock Exchange's 30-share Sensex gained 3.8 percent to a record close at 19,977.67 points after hitting an intraday high of 20,024.87 during the session.

SEOUL: South Korean shares also rose to a record finish, helped by bullish regional markets, with gains led by steelmakers, shipbuilders, banks and carmakers. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, rose 1.7 percent to 2,062.92.

SHANGHAI: Chinese stocks were buoyed by renewed hopes for the launch of stock index futures and expectations of fresh flows of funds into the markets. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 2.8 percent to 5,748.00. The Shenzhen Composite Index rose 1.9 percent to 1,403.86.

SINGAPORE: Singapore shares rose on the performance of banks and Wall Streetdespite a weak showing by property companies. The Straits Times Index added 1.3 percent to finish at 3,819.78 points.

SYDNEY: Australian stocks rose with strong global markets and surging resource stocks to a record close. Xstrata's A$3 billion bid for Jubilee Mines boosted the mining sector as investors bet on continued consolidation. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index gained 1.4 percent to finish at 6,792.1.

TAIPEI: Taiwan shares rose to a 7 1/2-year high, boosted by Wall Street's rally at the end of last week and strong third-quarter earnings and fourth-quarter guidance from electronics companies. The Weighted Price Index of the Taiwan Stock Exchange rose 1.85 percent to 9,809.88 points.

WELLINGTON: New Zealand stocks fell into negative territory, failing to tap into more positive sentiment offshore as blue chip Telecom again weighed on the market. The benchmark NZX-50 fell 0.3 percent 4,215.88.