Hong Kong shares climb to two-week high, China slides as liquor makers tumble

Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:52am EST

* HSI +1 pct, H-shares +0.9 pct, CSI300 -0.8 pct

* China property sector strong, finmin comments buoy reform hopes

* Wuliangye posts 6th daily loss, contamination fears escalates

* Tingyi, China Resources Enterprises slide on earnings

By Clement Tan

HONG KONG, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares climbed to their highest in two weeks on Thursday, helped by strength in Chinese property-related counters as investors cheered official comments committing to a gradual implementation of property taxes.

Mainland Chinese markets fell as liquor makers tumbled further after government tests substantiated local press reports about toxic substances in products of one of the firms, Jiugui Liquor

Both on- and off-shore Chinese markets, however, barely reacted to a preliminary survey of November manufacturing activity in China, which showed expansion accelerate in November for the first time in 13 months.

The Hang Seng Index rose 1 percent to close at its highest since Nov. 7, while the China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong firmed 0.9 percent. Bourse turnover declined 6 percent from Wednesday and was below its 30-day moving average for a ninth-straight session.

The CSI300 Index of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen fell 0.8 percent off a one-week high set on Wednesday. The Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.7 percent as bourse volume dropped some 13 percent from Wednesday.

"The Chinese property sector offers some kind of earnings guarantee now at a time where earnings for other late cyclical sectors such as the consumer sector still seem weak," Alan Lam, Julius Baer's Greater China equity analyst, told Reuters.

He added that investors will be watching China's annual central economic work conference meeting, typically held in December, for more concrete clues on the new leadership team's thinking.

On Thursday, China Overseas Land & Investment jumped 2.1 percent, creeping back towards an all-time high set on Nov. 5. China Resources Land soared 3.5 percent to its highest in almost three years.

They are each set for their first annual gain in three years, now up 67 and 57 percent on the year. This compares to the 18 percent gain on the Hang Seng Index and 6 percent gain on the China Enterprises Index.

Official media on Thursday quoted Finance Minister Xie Xuren as saying that the implementation of property taxes will be done gradually.

Other Chinese media also carried comments from a deputy research head at the country's housing ministry that there was no plans to change property controls since current curbs, particularly home purchase limits, have been effective.

"The question now is what Beijing is planning to do to ensure stability in the property market in the longer run. They have maxed out all the micromanaging-type of policies this year," said Lee Wee-Liat, head of Asia property research at BNP Paribas.

Weak earnings from earlier this week continued to weigh on China-focused consumer counters. Tingyi Hol;dings and China Resources Enterprises each slid 1.8 and 0.4 percent on the day.

BOTTOMS UP NO MORE

Chinese alcohol makers listed in the mainland tumbled further after the official Xinhua news agency reported that Hunan provincial authorities found as much as 1.04 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of plasticisers in samples of Jiugui Liquor's products.

Plasticisers are additives that increase the fluidity of a material, but are also toxic chemicals that can cause damage to men's reproductive health and cause early female puberty when consumed over a long period.

This according to Xinhua, was more than three times above the health ministry's 0.3 mg/kg limit, but was within the 0.495 to 2.32 mg/kg range the China Alcoholic Drinks Association listed in a statement on Monday, adding that higher-end alcoholic drinks contain higher levels of plasticiser.

Jiugui's Shenzhen shares stayed suspended, as they have been since Monday, but major players in the Chinese white spirits, or baijiu sector, deepened a downward spiral on the month.

Wuliangye Yibin posted a sixth-straight loss, diving 4.7 percent to its lowest since July 2010. It has now slumped 18.3 percent in November, set for its worst monthly showing in more than four years.

Bigger rival, Kweichow Moutai shed 0.6 percent but finished off the day's lows for the fourth time this week, with Thursday's intra-day low its lowest since April 11.

Moutai was up as much as 28 percent on the year at the end of October, losses of 12.1 percent this month have seen this year's gains cut to just 12.4 percent.

Shares of baijiu makers have been on the backfoot since last month on worries over high inventory levels and fears that strong anti-corruption moves would sap demand for the expensive bottles often used as gifts to local government officials.

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