Solid rise puts Hong Kong shares on way to weekly gain, China tepid

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 08, 2013 05:20 hrs

* HSI +1.1 pct, H-shares +1.4 pct, CSI300 +0.1 pct

* A-shares tepid despite strong China February exports

* Two China coal stocks in Hong Kong up more than 4 pct

* China auto sectors strong on Feb sales numbers

By Clement Tan

HONG KONG, March 8 (Reuters) - Strong Friday gains helped nudge Hong Kong shares into positive territory for the week, with growth-sensitive counters buoyed by Wall Street gains and by hopes that coming Chinese data will further confirm the economy is picking up.

Markets were little moved by data showed China's exports dramatically exceeded expectations in February while imports were much weaker than forecast. Onshore Chinese shares were on track to close an eventful week on a weak note.

The Hang Seng Index went into the midday break up 1.2 percent at 23,034.1 and was up 0.5 percent on the week. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong climbed 1.3 percent, leaving it up 0.9 percent for the week.

In the mainland, the CSI300 of the leading Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings was down 0.4 percent, with the Shanghai Composite Index off 0.2 percent. They are now down 2.3 percent and 1.7 percent on the week, respectively.

"We see economic recovery in China already, so it will be important to see how that is translated into the earnings recovery for Chinese companies," said Benjamin Chang, chief executive officer of LBN Advisors, a firm that manages more than $400 million in two China funds.

For January and February combined, exports rose 23.6 percent, while imports increased 5 percent, which compared with expectations for rises of 17.6 percent and 10.0 percent respectively.

Shares of China Coal Energy, due to post 2012 full year corporate earnings next Friday, jumped 4.5 percent in Hong Kong, tracking strength in the Chinese coal mining sector. Its larger rival China Shenhua Energy rose 4.4 percent.

Chinese oil giant CNOOC was up 2.7 percent after U.S. crude gained more than $1 a barrel on Thursday as data showed an unexpected drop in U.S. unemployment benefits and the dollar weakened.

Chinese auto makers were broadly stronger after data from an industry body suggested the country's passenger car market fared better than expected in February, a traditional low season because the Lunar New Year holidays.

Shares of Chinese automaker SAIC Motor rose 2.1 percent to their highest in a week in Shanghai. Late on Thursday, it reported a 2 percent fall in February auto sales from a year ago.

Great Wall Motor gained 5.5 percent in Shanghai and 0.8 percent in Hong Kong after its president told reporters on the sidelines of China's parliamentary meeting of plans to invest at least 8 billion yuan ($1.3 billion) in research and development by 2015.

Ping An Bank was among the top drags on the CSI300 index, diving 3.5 percent in Shenzhen after its net interest margins slightly disappointed despite full-year 2012 net income that was in line with expectations.

The 21st Century Business Herald newspaper reported on Friday that the Chinese central bank has ordered banks to include wealth management products as part of their structured deposits on their balance sheets from this year.

The Chinese media reported that a senior China Securities Regulatory Commission official clarified comments about the resumption of initial public offerings that roiled the A-share market on Thursday. Friday's reports suggested IPOs could restart at end-June at the earliest and not end-March, as appeared to be the case on Thursday.

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