Hong Kong shares trim strong 2013 start, China slips

Fri Jan 4, 2013 12:06am EST

* HSI -0.8 pct, H-shares -1.1 pct, CSI300 -0.6 pct

* Fed caution triggers profit taking in biggest 2013 gainers

* A-shares reverse early index gains in 1st 2013 trading day

* China insurers sink in HK, rise in Shanghai

By Clement Tan

HONG KONG, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares slipped from a 19-month high as investors took profits on outperformers in the past two days after the U.S. Federal Reserve signalled growing concerns about its stimulative monetary policy.

The Fed's asset-purchase programme has been among the chief reasons for the swelling inflows into the Chinese territory that have buoyed markets. Fed reticence about further growing its $2.9 trillion balance sheet could limit capital flows.

The Hang Seng Index on Friday went into the midday trading down 0.8 percent from Thursday's highest close since June 1, 2011. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings slid 1.1 percent after hitting its most overbought levels in more than two years on Thursday.

The CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings fell 0.6 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.2 percent at the resumption of trade after a three-day New Year holiday in the mainland, starting 2013 on a weaker note after stellar December gains.

"I won't be too worried about the Fed changing their tone at this point, the U.S. economy will need to improve further from here before that will happen," said Wang Ao-chao, UOB-Kay Hian's Shanghai-based head of China research.

"We are coming off overbought levels today. This cyclical-led rally in offshore Chinese shares should continue in the next few weeks, China's improving economic data will help," Wang added.

On Friday, Chinese non-banking financial and coal stocks were among the biggest drags after leading the surge in the first two trading days of 2013 after a last minute U.S. deal averting the fiscal cliff.

Shares of China Life Insurance fell 1.9 percent in Hong Kong from Thursday's 18-month high, while Ping An Insurance , its smaller sector rival, dropped 2.1 percent.

Citic Securities, China's largest listed brokerage, which fell 3.8 percent on Thursday, sank another 4.3 percent on Friday, erasing Wednesday's 6 percent jump.

The mainland's securities regulator said last weekend that it plans to allow eligible securities houses and insurers' asset management units to develop and manage mutual funds in a bid to reinvigorate an industry struggling to produce returns for investors.

This follows an announcement last week allowing brokerages to sell subordinated debt and the Chinese central bank pledging to quicken the pace of reform in the financial sector. That news sent shares of Chinese brokerages soaring last Friday.

Shares of Yanzhou Coal in Hong Kong, which had surged more than 10 percent in the first two days of 2013 on rising coal prices, slid 2.3 percent on Friday.

ALCOHOL SINKS CHINA

Chinese insurers were strong in mainland Chinese markets, but weakness in alcohol counters dragged indexes off their highest in more than six months.

Both indexes had started Friday up more than 1 percent, but quickly gave up gains. Shanghai midday volumes were at their highest since mid-December.

Kweichow Moutai declined 1.6 percent in Shanghai, while rival Wuliangye lost 1.7 percent in Shenzhen after the country's leaders over the New Year holiday repeated pledges to combat corruption.

Moutai and Wuliangye produce premium white spirit liquor that Chinese businessman often present to officials when seeking favours.

Gold mining stocks were also weak as gold prices slipped 1 percent. Zijin Mining slipped 0.3 percent in Shanghai and 2.9 percent in Hong Kong. Zhongjin Gold slid 2.7 percent in Shanghai.

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