Hong Kong shares poised for small loss, China weak

Wed Aug 8, 2012 1:22am EDT

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(Updates to midday)

* HSI slips 0.1 pct, CSI300 down 0.2 pct

* Esprit dives 11 pct, new CEO's plan to revive retailer in focus

* MGM China up after encouraging Q2 earnings

* Cathay Pacific in focus after H1 earnings underwhelm

By Clement Tan

HONG KONG, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares edged lower in thin trade on Wednesday, as investors took profits ahead of a slew of Chinese economic data, with retailer Esprit Holdings giving up some of its big gains from the previous session.

The Hang Seng Index inched down 0.1 percent to 20,055.1 at midday, near the bottom of the day's range.

Mainland Chinese markets were weaker, with the Shanghai Composite Index down 0.1 percent at midday, while the CSI300 Index of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings was down 0.2 percent.

"People have been trying to ride the bounce up this week, but we are running into some technical resistance now," said Hong Hao, chief strategist at Bank of Communications International Securities.

Esprit dived 11.3 percent, trimming its 28 percent surge on Tuesday, as investors await more details on a plan by its new chief to revive the struggling Europe-focused retailer.

Standard Chartered Plc was up 0.7 percent at midday after opening down more than 3 percent. It suffered its worst ever single day loss in Hong Kong on Wednesday after the New York state banking regulator launched an explosive attack on the bank's alleged money laundering transactions tied to Iran.

On Thursday, it emerged that the U.S. Treasury Department and Federal Reserve were blindsided and angered by that move, sources familiar with the situation said.

Beijing is expected to release a slew of July economic data from Thursday, starting with inflation, urban investment, industrial output and retail sales that is likely to signal a modest recovery in the world's second-largest economy.

Shares of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) , the mainland's largest lender, were the top drag on the Hang Seng Index, falling 1 percent after testing chart resistance at around HK$4.60.

Belle International, a China-focused footwear retailer, shed 3.1 percent after rising almost 8 percent in the previous two days.

EARNINGS IN FOCUS

MGM China jumped 4.2 percent after posting better-than-expected second-quarter results after markets closed on Tuesday. It is now up almost 19 percent for the year to date, compared with an 8.8 percent gain for the Hang Seng Index.

Before Wednesday, it was trading at 9.8 times forward 12-month earnings, a 12 percent discount to its historical median, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.

Cathay Pacific Airways rose 0.5 percent ahead of its interim earnings at midday which underwhelmed expectations. It is down 2.6 percent this year.

Five out of 21 analysts downgraded their earnings estimates for Cathay Pacific by an average of 18.8 percent in the last 30 days, according to StarMine.

Hong Kong's dominant carrier posted a net loss of HK$935 million ($120.6 million) for the six months ended June as the global airline industry grappled with stubbornly high jet fuel prices, falling passenger yields and lower freight volume. (Editing by Richard Pullin)

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