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HONG KONG, Dec 19 AFP

December 19 2012, 8:29PM

Hong Kong shares have ended 0.57 per cent up at a 16-month high as dealers grew confident a plan to avert the US fiscal cliff will be agreed before the end of the year.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index climbed 128.64 points to close at 22,623.37 - its highest finished since August 1 last year - on turnover of HK$62.86 billion ($A7.73 billion).

"The (index) may test 23,000 before the year-end, but there may not be too much further upside from there," said Ben Kwong, chief operating officer at KGI Asia.

"Given how well the market has performed in the fourth quarter and with holidays approaching, a lot of fund managers may want to lock in profits," Kwong told Dow Jones Newswires.

US lawmakers are holding talks to avert the huge tax hikes and deep spending cuts slated to come into effect in two weeks, which most economists warn will tip the economy into recession, with global knock-on effects.

However, top Republican lawmaker John Boehner has said he is willing to see taxes rise for people on more than $US1 million - a shift from his previous position of no rises at all.

And President Barack Obama has also said he is willing to see rises for people on more than $US400,000, rather than the $US250,000 he previously wanted.

In Europe, Standard & Poor's raised Greece's sovereign debt rating by six notches, citing support for Athens from its eurozone partners, and much reducing fears it will leave the eurozone.

The agency said the move "reflects our view of the strong determination of European Economic and Monetary Union (eurozone) member states to preserve Greek membership in the eurozone", the agency said.

Resources stocks were up on hopes for China's economy.

Shenhua Energy rose 3.2 per cent to HK$33.65 and China's largest refiner Sinopec added 1.7 per cent to HK$8.80.

Banking giant HSBC rose 0.50 per cent to HK$80.50.

However, fashion retailer Esprit dived 4.5 per cent to HK$11.16 after warning late on Tuesday it expected to post a loss in the July-December.

Chinese shares ended flat as profit-taking wiped out morning gains following a huge rally in the previous three sessions, dealers said.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index edged down 0.22 points to 2,162.24 on turnover of 75.8 billion yuan ($A11.63 billion).

Chengtun Mining lost 2.94 per cent to 10.89 yuan and Yuguang Gold & Lead dropped 1.65 per cent to 16.13 yuan, while cement producer Xishui Strong Year eased 1.40 per cent to 6.32 yuan and Anhui Conch Cement slid 0.64 per cent to 18.52 yuan.

Among banks, Pudong Development Bank was down 0.99 per cent to 9.05 yuan and Agricultural Bank of China was down 0.72 per cent to 2.75 yuan.

Wine and liquor makers bucked the trend, with Anhui Golden Seed Winery jumping 4.23 per cent to 17.51 yuan and Xinghuacun Fen Wine Factory up 2.48 per cent to 38.87 yuan.