Most markets in Asia rallied during a trading week abbreviated by New Year observances.

Korea's Kospi index rallied as the New Year arrived. It was up four percent from a week ago and closed Friday at 821. In the past year, the Kospi gained more than 20 percent.

However one equities strategist, Kang Sung-Mo of Dongwon Securities in Seoul, says the current optimism will fade this month before recovering in February.

"We [will] see a short-term bearish market in January," he said. "In February, we believe the market will regain due to a recovery in domestic demand."

Thailand's index ended the year at 722 - its highest close since early 1997 - the year of the Asian financial crisis. The index rose more than 106 percent in 2003.

Financial analyst Waraporn Wiboonkanarak, at Seamico Securities in Bangkok, predicts that Thailand's banking sector will continue to make gains in 2004.

"This sector will start to manifest benefits from the economy's recover," she said. "Banks also have restructured and this will drive their earnings."

Taiwan's Taiex index ended the shortened week sharply higher on Friday. The Taiex closed at 6,041, or three percent higher than last Friday's close.

Traders say investors approached the New Year optimistic that economies will improve, and that improvement will bring higher returns on stocks.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained more than 2.5 percent to close Friday at 12,801.