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=ASIA MARKETS: Hong Kong Stocks Post Fifth Weekly Gain As Rally Stretches On

HONG KONG (Jan 12) -- Hong Kong shares marked their fifth straight weekly advance on Friday, as upbeat global cues and a rosy outlook helped send the benchmark equity index on a record-winning streak.

The Hang Seng Index finished the five-day period 1.9% higher after gaining 0.9% to 31,412.54 on Friday, capping a 14th straight day of gains. A string of recent record highs for Wall Street indexes and continuing inflows from Chinese investors over the trading links with the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges have kept investor spirits high. While some momentum indicators have been signaling the market may be overbought, a few analysts remain sanguine on the prospects.

“The Hang Seng Index is likely to continue its upward path next week as there are no major negative news in the financial markets,” said Ben Kwong, a director at KGI Asia. “The situation for Hong Kong stocks is similar to U.S. stocks. As long as there are beneficial factors, such as the U.S. dollar remains weak and liquidity remains abundant, the index will inch up, and a big correction is very unlikely.”

Country Garden Holdings jumped 12.8%, China Mengniu Dairy added 8.9% and Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing advanced 8.5% during the week, the top performers on the 51-stock Hang Seng Index. In Friday’s trading, Country Garden slipped 0.7%, Mengniu Dairy added 0.8% and HKEx climbed 2.4%.

More than 138 billion Hong Kong dollars ($17.6 billion) worth of stocks changed hands on the stock exchange’s main board on Friday.

The Shanghai Composite Index edged up 0.1% on Friday, taking this week’s increase to 1.1%, while the Shenzhen Composite Index also finished the week higher, despite ending Friday’s session 0.2% lower. The yuan strengthened 0.6% to 6.4550 against the U.S. dollar.

Government data released earlier on Friday showed December exports rose a faster-than-expected 10.9% from a year ago, while imports increased 4.5%, a pace that is weaker than projected.

“Export growth remained solid in December, with shipments to the U.S. and Europe expanding healthily, indicating steady global demand momentum,” Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics, wrote in a report. “We do not think that the import slowdown this year is going to be as sharp as suggested by the December data, given that China’s policymakers continue to want to see credit and the economy cool gradually rather than fast.”

Longfor Properties slid 2.1% in Hong Kong on Friday, trimming its gains this month to roughly 20%. The company said on Thursday its contracted sales for 2017 jumped more than 77% from the year-earlier period.

China Maple Leaf Educational Systems slumped 5.1% to HK$9.37 after saying it will raise up to HK$1 billion from a share placement at HK$9.10 per share. The international school operator said it will use the proceeds for potential overseas acquisitions and general corporate purposes, and is in “active discussions” for a number of acquisition opportunities.

Sa Sa International Holdings gained 1.9%. The cosmetics retailer said on Thursday its turnover for the quarter ended Dec. 31 rose 6.5% from a year ago.

Yunnan Water Investment added 0.9% after saying it won a bid for a public-private partnership project related to water treatment works in the city of Qinyang in Henan Province, with an estimated investment of about 1.77 billion yuan ($272 million).

Shougang Concord International Enterprises added 0.9% after the steel maker and trader said it is considering a proposal for an acquisition of a company engaged in the parking business worldwide.

- By Amy Lam;; +85239605153
- Edited by V. Phani Kumar
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