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Asian Stocks Finish Up in 2006

Many Asian stock markets finished 2006 at new highs in a year that saw financial scandals and major economic policy changes. VOA's Heda Bayron reports from Hong Kong.

Stock analysts say bullish investor sentiment on China's economy is pushing Hong Kong's Hang Seng index to new levels.

The index rose 34 percent to finish the year at 19,964, just below the record all-time high of 20,000 reached on Thursday.

"[It's] Liquidity driven," said Tony Tong, an analyst at China Everbright Securities. "Investors looking for renminbi, yuan denominated assets drive the share prices up."

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index ended the year at 17,225, its highest close since May. The index rose seven percent in a year punctuated by a major financial scandal and a reversal of Japan's long-held zero interest rate policy.

A fraud investigation into the Internet company Livedoor, sparked massive selling in January that forced trading in the Tokyo stock exchange to be suspended for the first time ever.

Another major development in 2006 was the rise in Japanese interest rates for the first time in six years, signaling a recovery from years of economic stagnation and deflation.

In Taiwan, the TAIEX closed at its highest level in six years at 7,823. Taiwan's central bank raised interest rates Thursday but that did not deter investors in the stock market Friday. The index is up 19.5 percent for 2006.

South Korea's KOSPI ended the year four percent higher at 1,434, while Manila's composite index rallied to a nearly 10-year high Friday at 2,982.

And in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 index finished the year on a new high of 5,699, rising 19 percent for the year.