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Hong Kong shares linger at 2013 low, China pares gains after flash PMI

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Mon, Feb 25, 2013 05:00 hrs

* HSI, H-shares flat; CSI300 +0.1 pct

* Policy jitters hit China, Hong Kong property sectors

* China policy details ahead of meetings next week seen key

* Chinese brokers lifted by move to expand A-share short selling

By Clement Tan

HONG KONG, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares lingered at a 2013 low on Monday, as strength in index heavyweight HSBC Holdings offset weakness in the local property sector after the city government announced more measures last week to cool the market.

The mainland Chinese market rebounded from multi-week lows, but pared early gains after a private preliminary survey of February manufacturing activity in the world's second-largest economy slipped to its lowest in four months.

The Hang Seng Index went into the midday trading break flat, staying at last Friday's 2013 closing low. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong was also flat.

The CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings rose 0.2 percent from its lowest close since Jan. 28 last Friday, while the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.3 percent.

The CSI300 saw its worst weekly loss since July 2010 last week, with offshore China markets suffering steep losses as well, on fears of more tightening after the Chinese central bank moved to aggressively drain funds from the interbank market.

"It's a waiting game at the moment, with the U.S. Fed chief testimony on Tuesday and the outcome of the elections in Italy due to come. We're not sure if this is the bottom," said Jackson Wong, Tanrich Securities' vice-president for equity sales.

"But a strong mainland market will help. Investors will be looking out for details of proposed policy changes leading up to China's annual parliamentary meetings next week," Wong added.

Chinese property shares dived after the official China Securities Journal reported on Monday that Beijing is likely to unveil new property tightening measures before the annual National People's Congress on March 5, where Xi Jinping is expected to be confirmed as China's new president.

The newspaper report listed expanding property taxes and implementing limits on house purchases in more cities as two possible measures, which while not new, rattled investors.

Shares of China Vanke, the country's largest developer by sales, dived 3 percent in Shenzhen to its lowest since Dec. 25. Poly Real Estate shed 2.7 percent in Shanghai.

In Hong Kong, China Resources Land slid 1.6 percent, cutting gains on the year to 3.3 percent. Agile Property shed 2.5 percent.

The Hong Kong property sector was also weaker after the city government imposed higher stamp duties and home loan curbs on property transactions late last Friday in a sixth round of policy measures to cool an overheated property sector.

Property agent Midland Holding slumped 5.5 percent, but went into the midday break near the day's highs. Sun Hung Kai Properties lost 2.3 percent, while Cheung Kong Holdings and New World Development each lost nearly 2 percent.

EARNINGS IN FOCUS

Corporate earnings is a growing focus. Just under a tenth of HK-listed companies tracked by Thomson Reuters StarMine have reported 2012 earnings and initial data suggests there could be more misses than beats in the 2012 results season.

In Hong Kong, 53 percent of the companies that have reported so far have missed expectations, with the biggest disappointments among industrials.

ANTA Sports rose 1.9 percent from Friday's near two-week low ahead of its final 2012 earnings, due at the midday break. Up 10.3 percent this year to date, ANTA is currently trading at a 3 percent discount to its historical median forward 12-month earnings multiple, according to StarMine.

Shares of insurer AIA Group hovered near all-time highs, inching up 0.5 percent on the day. Now up 6 percent on the year, AIA is currently trading at a 10 percent premium over its historical 12-month forward earning multiple as investors opt for its perceived earnings safety.

According to StarMine, three of 17 analysts upgraded their forecasts for AIA's full year 2012 earnings by an average of 23.7 percent in the last 30 days. AIA is due to post its earnings results on Feb. 27.

Also stronger on Monday was Europe's largest bank and Hang Seng Index heavyweight HSBC Holdings, up 0.6 percent. Chinese oil majors were also lifted by China's first increase in retail gasoline and diesel prices this year from Monday. CNOOC Ltd rose 0.5 percent.

Chinese brokers rose, with Haitong Securities up 1 percent in Shanghai and 0.7 percent in Hong Kong after the official China Securities Journal reported an expansion of a short selling pilot scheme from Feb. 28.




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