Hong Kong, China shares rebound, but gains lack conviction

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 22, 2012 06:52 hrs

(Updates to midday)

* HSI up 0.9 pct, Shanghai Comp up 1 pct

* Turnover lackluster ahead of Friday's China inflation data

* Prada jumps on chatter of China luxury tax reduction

* China property strong after Goldman upgrade

By Clement Tan

HONG KONG, March 8 (Reuters) - Hong Kong and China shares ended higher at midday on Thursday, poised to snap a three-day losing streak with the financial and energy sectors stronger after taking the brunt of this week's sell-off.

But the gains barely clawed back Wednesday's losses and turnover was thin, suggesting investors are still cautious and will be looking for more clues on the state of China's economy, including inflation data on Friday.

The Hang Seng Index gained 0.9 percent, while the China Enterprises Index, comprised of the top mainland listings in Hong Kong, rose 1.5 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index added 1 percent.

"March will be a month of consolidation. Along with data, corporate earnings will be key in showing the way forward," said Edward Huang, an equity strategist with Haitong International Securities.

"There have been some early reversals in calls on the Chinese property sector, but I would wait for data and some earnings to come through first," Huang added.

Shares of Chinese banks and insurance companies, among the hardest hit in the last three sessions, were among the top boosts to benchmark indices.

Ping An Insurance rose 4.9 percent in Hong Kong and 2.7 percent in Shanghai after losing 10.4 percent and 5 percent, respectively, in the last three days.

Its bigger rival, China Life Insurance , recovered some of its steep losses this week. The world's largest insurer by market value gained 1 percent in Shanghai and 2.2 percent in Hong Kong.

PetroChina Co Ltd was up 0.4 percent in Shanghai, while China Shenhua Energy Co Ltd gained 1 percent and was among the top boosts on the Shanghai Composite.

Among the top percentage gainers in Hong Kong, Italian luxury brand Prada SpA jumped 5.2 percent in midday volumes that was almost twice its 30-day average to near all-time highs last reached July 27.

Traders cited chatter of a possible reduction in luxury goods taxes in the mainland from the ongoing annual meeting of China's parliament.


Chinese developer Evergrande Real Estate jumped 5.2 percent to HK$4.66, leading gains in the sector with traders citing a Goldman Sachs note that raised its target price to HK$7.44.

In the same note, Evergrande was cited as a top pick. As of end-January this year, it also ranks among the top 10 holdings in the $8 million Legg Mason LMHK China Fund.

Goldman Chinese property analysts said there is increasingly evidence that local governments are ready to give more support to sustaining the volume recovery in the sector.

Longfor Properties, another of Goldman's top picks, gained 1.3 percent. Its peer, Agile Property was up 2.4 percent ahead of its 2011 corporate earnings later today. (Additional reporting by Vikram Subhedar; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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