Hong Kong shares edge higher, investors await China markets reopening

Last Updated: Sun, Feb 17, 2013 06:51 hrs

* HSI slips 0.1 pct on Friday, gains 1 pct this week

* Local properties fall on fears of fresh curbs

* Strength in defensive stocks as investors remain cautious

HONG KONG, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares eked out slim gains on Friday, weighed down by large-cap financial and property stocks, with many investors waiting for direction from mainland China markets when they reopen next week after the Lunar New Year holiday.

Defensive counters generally outperformed as investors remained cautious amid speculation of further government tightening measures in both Hong Kong and mainland China.

The Hang Seng Index rose 0.1 percent for the day, ending at 23,444.6 points, and finished the holiday-shortened week up 1 percent.

The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong gained 0.2 percent and rose 1.7 percent over the two-day trading week.

Turnover in Hong Kong remained weak as many market players were still away for the holiday. Mainland Chinese markets were shut for the week and will resume trading on Feb. 18.

"The holiday mode is still there and we are waiting for the reopening of the A-share market," said Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.

The Hang Seng Index fell 2.1 percent last week, its worst weekly loss since November.

Yip said investors in both on- and offshore property markets were wary of further housing policy curbs.

"What we are all waiting for is more information coming out," Yip said.

Hong Kong real estate developers reported strong sales figures during the Lunar New Year holiday, triggering fears that the government might announce further measures to contain surging home prices.

Local property developer Wharf Holdings fell 0.7 percent, while Sun Hung Kai Properties dropped 0.4 percent. Cheung Kong Holdings fell 0.3 percent.

Hong Kong-listed Chinese real estate plays gained for the second consecutive day after major mainland developers posted strong home sales in January. China Overseas Land rose 1.6 percent, while China Resources Land climbed 2.1 percent.

Popular defensive plays were broadly higher on Friday. Tencent Holdings rose 1 percent, while Hutchison Whampoa gained 0.9 percent. Hong Kong utilities provider Power Assets was up 1.4 percent.

Macau gambling stocks remained strong after the territory posted record visitor arrivals from mainland China on Thursday. Sands China Ltd gained 2.7 percent, while Wynn Macau Ltd rose 1.2 percent.

Shares in Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd rose 7.7 percent to their highest since November 2010, after its January car sales jumped 67 percent year-on-year.

China Metal International Holdings Inc rose 3.8 percent after its unaudited revenue for January rose to $25.8 million from $20.8 million a year ago.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd, the world's largest exchange company by market value, rose 1.5 percent after announcing plans to offer after-hours futures trading from April.

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