Property Shares Still Hot in Hong Kong and China

Markets in Asia were mixed Tuesday. In Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index rose 1% to 23,760 and in China the Shanghai Composite Index crept up 0.4% to 2,804. In Japan the Nikkei 225 Index inched down 0.3% to 10,511 upon returning from a long weekend.

Hong Kong property companies shot up today, boosted by a report from realtor Centaline that found sales of used apartments in 10 of Hong Kong's biggest private developments surged 79% over the weekend, according to Bloomberg. Additionally, the value of luxury property transactions in the city surged 40.2% last year, according to recent reports, putting it above the eye-popping levels seen in 1997. Prices for 3,000-square-foot apartments with prestigious addresses like Tregunter Path, located just beside the Peak Tram, are asking HK $43 million ($5.5 million), with prices continuing to rise. And note that square footage calculations in Hong Kong frequently include outside corridors leading to the apartments, as well as the area of the common elevator. "Better to wait before buying anything," one local told DailyFinance. "This can't go on."

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Today Hutchison Whampoa jumped 4.5%. Its luxury developments like Laguna City, developed in partnership with Cheung Kong, and Vista Paradiso, look like they've sprung from the pages of a Hawaiian travel brochure. They have swimming pools overlooking the sea, roller skating rinks and tennis courts. Their towers of apartment blocks have sweeping views -- but of course there's still the pollution. Other real estate firms also surged. Sino Land leaped 3.2%, New World Development gained 2.4%, Cheung Kong rocketed up 2%, Henderson Land soared 1.6% and Sun Hung Kai rose 1.3%.

Energy companies were bolstered by the rising price of crude oil futures, which rose 1.4% in New York yesterday. In Hong Kong, Cnooc advanced 2.3% and PetroChina increased 1.8%.

Macau Casinos Surge

Other big winners included casino operators, with Melco shooting up 14.7%. Bloomberg reports that casino revenue for December was 66% higher in December, and that the number of gambling tourists arriving to Macau (the only place where gambling is legal in China) from the mainland was up more than 20% in 2010. Galaxy Entertainment and Sands China both surged 6.5%.

In China, real estate shares also advanced, despite newly imposed taxes and other restrictions on purchases that are intended to curb speculators. Gemdale, which is committed to the "scientifically built home" according to its website, climbed 7.8%, Poly Real Estate saw a 5.6% gain and China Vanke scored a 3.3% advance.

Other gainers included shipping companies, with China Shipping Container Lines rallying 6.9% and China Cosco up 4%. Shanghai International Port saw a 6.3% rise.

European Debt Troubles Worry Japanese Investors

In Japan worries over European debt sent exporters tumbling. Canon fell 1.4%, Olympus fell 1.1% and Alps Electric, which makes electronic components for the auto industry, slumped 0.8%.

But on the brighter side, steelmakers rose with Nippon Steel climbing 3.8%, JFE Holdings up by 2.5% and Kobe Steel rising 1.9%. Tire maker Bridgestone advanced 1.8% and Sumitomo Rubber advanced 2.1% after Goldman upped its ratings for both companies.

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