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=ASIA MARKETS: Hong Kong Stocks Rise As China Reopens After Lunar New Year

HONG KONG (Feb 11) -- Hong Kong shares headed higher after a choppy morning session on Monday, with investors looking ahead to the outcome of another round of Sino-American trade talks in Beijing this week.

The Hang Seng Index rose 0.2% to 28,009.95 by noon after changing direction at least nine times. Social media and gaming major Tencent Holdings added 1.2% after two days of losses, while Ping An Insurance Group rose 0.8% following a 0.4% decline on Friday. CNOOC and PetroChina lost 0.5% and 0.4%, respectively, as Brent crude futures declined 1% in Asian trading on Monday.

Turnover on the Hong Kong stock exchange’s main board was at HK$47.7 billion ($6.07 billion) by midday, higher than usual for the time of day, as trading via the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock connects that link Hong Kong’s markets to China resumed after a weeklong break for the Lunar New Year.

In the mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.8%, while its Shenzhen counterpart climbed 2.2%. The yuan traded onshore fell 0.5% to 6.7759 against the dollar.

“A-shares always rally for a period after Chinese New Year holidays,” said Ricky Huang, an analyst at Luk Fook Financial Services, adding that investors were speculating about more policy support during the first quarter.

Shares of Chinese airlines declined in Hong Kong as the yuan weakened, with Air China and China Eastern Airlines falling 2.2% and 2.3%, respectively. Mainland airlines bear fuel and aircraft acquisition costs in U.S. dollars.

Meanwhile, focus remained on U.S.-China trade talks. Another round of negotiations is scheduled to start in Beijing this week, with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Trade Secretary Steven Mnuchin meeting Chinese officials on Thursday and Friday. The latest round of talks follows a meeting between China’s Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. officials in Washington at the end of January. A 90-day truce in the trade war between the two nations is scheduled to end on Mar. 1.

This week’s meeting “probably won't result in a deal because the divergence on intellectual property rights is too big to close, and it is hard for China to make big concessions,” said Huang. The truce deadline is “likely to see an extension,” he said.

Trading in the rest of the region was mixed, with the Nikkei Asia300 Index slipping 0.1%. The FTSE Bursa Malaysia declined 0.2%, while Singapore’s Straits Times Index sank 0.5%.

Health services provider Mason Group Holdings rose 5.4% in Hong Kong after saying its unit agreed to sell 46% of dairy processing and packaging business Blend and Pack to Wattle Health Australia Investments for A$47.8 million ($33.9 million).

China Gingko Education Group fell 1.8% after saying an over-allotment option related to its initial public offering lapsed without being exercised.

Energy services provider China Singyes Solar Technologies slumped 6% after saying it missed an interest payment on convertible bonds that was due on Feb. 8.

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Holdings lost 2.8% in Singapore, while Singapore Technologies Engineering and Singapore Airlines decreased 1% or more. Malaysia's Dialog Group fell 1%.

- By Amy Lam; amy.lam@nikkeinewsrise.com; +852 3960 5150
- Edited By Suzannah Benjamin
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