HONG KONG Jan 2 Hong Kong shares could start the year steady at 18-month highs on Wednesday, as investors await an outcome to U.S. congressional negotiations that will help avert a fiscal crisis in the world's largest economy.
On Monday, the Hang Seng Index closed flat at 22,656.9, hovering at its highest close since July 2011. Stiff chart resistance is next seen at around 22,800, intra-day highs last seen in July and August 2011. The benchmark jumped 22.9 percent in 2012.
Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea's KOSPI was up 0.5 percent at 0052 GMT. China and Japan markets are closed for a public holiday.
FACTORS TO WATCH:
* China's official manufacturing purchasing managers' index held steady in December at 50.6, matching November's seven-month high, as growth in new orders was unchanged and the pace of output softened marginally.
* China will reimpose import tax on some goods - including solar equipment, natural gas pipelines and railway machinery - from 2013 to help domestic manufacturers, the finance ministry said on Monday.
* China Tianrui Group Cement Co Ltd clarified media reports that it is capable of settling its bank borrowings and increase in finance costs was due to higher base interest rates in China.
* Metallurgical Corp of China Ltd will transfer its 51.06 percent equity interest in loss-making Huludao Nonferrous Group to MCC's controlling shareholder.(Reporting by Clement Tan and Lee Chyen Yee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
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