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=ASIA MARKETS: Hong Kong Stocks Come Off Lows Amid Hopes For China Support

HONG KONG (Oct 19) -- Hong Kong shares came off their intraday lows in choppy morning trading on Friday after Chinese regulators voiced support for the nation’s financial markets.

The Hang Seng Index was down 0.3% at 25,366.76 at noon, after dropping as low as 25,090.30 earlier. Social-media major Tencent Holdings slipped 1.2% and heavyweight lender HSBC Holdings lost 1.4%, while China Construction Bank rose 0.8%. Ping An Insurance Group edged 0.7% higher after reporting a 21.2% increase in life insurance premium for January to September from a year earlier.

The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of large mainland companies listed in the city slipped 0.1%. In mainland trading, the Shanghai Composite Index was little changed from Thursday’s close at a four-year low. It fell as much as 1.5% earlier on Friday. The yuan was little changed against the U.S. dollar at 6.9377.

Chinese financial regulators on Friday provided verbal support to ease unrest in the markets. People’s Bank of China Yi Gang said the central bank is studying some targeted measures to ease financing difficulties of companies. Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking & Insurance Regulatory Commission, said separately that systemic financial risks were “totally controllable” and that the recent market turmoil is “seriously out of line" with economic fundamentals.

Guo added that the regulator would allow insurers to set up special products to resolve the liquidity risk of shares pledged by companies with financial institutions.

The A-share market has been helped by “rescue efforts” from regulators, “but I think the boost could be very short-lived,” said Ricky Huang, an analyst at Luk Fook Financial Services. “People are anticipating an economic recession and selling stocks. It’s better to hold cash now.”

The comments by regulators came before data released on Friday showed China’s gross domestic product grew 6.5% in the third quarter from a year ago. The growth rate missed an estimate of 6.6% in a poll by Nikkei and Nikkei QUICK News, and was slower than the 6.7% expansion in the previous quarter.

Luggage maker Samsonite International fell 6.4% in Hong Kong after Nomura downgraded the stock to "neutral" from "buy," citing an expected slowdown for sales growth in North America and China.

Sa Sa International tumbled 7.9%. The skin-care and cosmetics chain on Thursday reported an 8.5% increase in retail and wholesale turnover for the July to September period from a year ago, a slowdown from the 24.8% growth reported in the April to June quarter.

Crocodile Garments jumped 6.7% after saying it expects to report a substantial increase in full-year consolidated profit.

Ascletis Pharma rose 2.1% after saying its new drug application for chronic hepatitis C treatment Ravidasvir is on the China Food & Drug Administration’s list for proposed priority reviews.

Maanshan Iron & Steel rose 4.7% after reporting a more than doubling of net profit for the nine months ended Sept. 30.

- By Amy Lam and Benny Kung;; +85239605150
- Edited By Suzannah Benjamin
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