Asia Rises as Investors Bet on U.S. Tax Reform

Most major Asian indexes closed higher on Monday, given a boost by investor optimism that a plan to reduce corporate taxes would be passed stateside.

The Nikkei 225 screamed higher 348.55 points, or 1.6%, to 22,901.72, as trading houses and banks rose. Tech and automaker blue-chips also saw gains, while several construction names declined. Toyota closed up 2.8%, Sony gained 3.1% and SoftBank climbed 1.7% by the end of the day.

Shares of Obayashi Corp. closed up 0.3% despite Nikkei headlines that Japanese prosecutors are likely to raid the company's offices as part of a bid-rigging investigation. Other Japanese construction companies Nikkei said was involved in the probe ended the session lower: Taisei Corporation was down 1.8%, Shimizu Corporation shed 2.4% and Kajima Corporation fell 2.7%

Japan's November exports rose 16.2% on year, above the 14.6% forecast by analysts. That was the 12th-straight month that exports have gained

Against the Japanese currency, the U.S. dollar was steady at 112.67.

The Hang Seng Index powered up 202.3 points, or 0.7%, to 29,050.41

Meanwhile, stock exchange operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing announced plans on Friday to loosen existing listing rules in a bid to improve competitiveness. In its proposal are plans to allow the listings of biotechnology issuers in the pre-profit stage and to accept issuers with dual share classes, subject to safeguards. Shares were up 4.5%

Korean markets were flat with Samsung Electronics adding 1.2%. Steelmakers traded lower, with Posco and Hyundai Steel closing down 2.3% and 4.7%

Shares of automakers closed unchanged on news of an ongoing union dispute, with Hyundai Motor ending the session flat. Yonhap news reported last Friday that Hyundai workers at the automaker's Ulsan factories would be on strike on Monday and Tuesday after the company failed to meet their demands for a raise in wages.

Australian markets gained as resource stocks gave a boost to the overall index. Rio Tinto climbed 1.2% and Fortescue Metals rose 0.8% Banking shares were also higher on Monday, with ANZ rising 2.1% after the bank announced it would buy back up to A$1.5 billion ($1.15 billion U.S.) shares on-market.

Meanwhile, Australia's Aconex saw its shares pop more than 40% after the cloud collaboration company announced it had received a A$1.6 billion ($1.22-billion U.S.) acquisition offer from Oracle. Oracle has offered A$7.80 per share, a 47% premium above Aconex's Friday closing price.

CHINA

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 inched up 4.43 points, or 0.1%, to 3,985.29

The People's Bank of China raised the 14-day reverse repo rate by five basis points to 2.65% on Monday. The move followed the central bank's decision last week to increase the seven-day and 28-day reverse repo rates and the medium-term lending facility rate by five basis points following the Federal Reserve's December rate hike.

Investors also took note of China property price data released Monday. New home prices rose 0.3% in November compared to the month before and 5.1% compared to one year ago.

In other markets

In Korea, the Kospi index fell 0.19 points to 2,481.88

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index regained 15.08 points, or 0.1%, to 10,506.52

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index slumped 2.12 points, or 0.1%, to 3,414.82

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 subtracted 16.71 points, or 0.2%, to 8,344.15

In Australia, the ASX 200 regained 41.96 points, or 0.7%, to 6,038.93