Hong Kong shares rise in weak turnover, China sluggish after trade data

Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:03am EDT

* HSI, H-shares +0.8 pct; CSI300 -0.2 pct, Shanghai Comp flat

* Trade data showed unexpected China deficit in March

* China brokers A-shares hurt by reported IPO fraud

* Moutai jumps after news reports on changed standards

By Clement Tan

HONG KONG, April 10 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares rose in anemic turnover on Wednesday with mainland China markets sluggish after data showed the world's second-largest economy unexpectedly had a trade deficit in March.

China posted a $884 million trade deficit in March as a forecast-busting 14.1 percent surge in imports from a year earlier eclipsed export growth of 10 percent.

The CSI300 of the leading Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings slipped 0.2 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index ended a choppy day flat as bourse volume sank for a second day and was nearly 20 percent below average.

The Hang Seng Index gained 0.8 percent to extend a rebound after Monday's close at the lowest level since mid-November. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong also climbed 0.8 percent.

Gains in the territory came in turnover that was 14 percent below its average in the past month. At $7.6 billion, that was just about one-fifth of the $37 billion recorded in Tokyo, giving further anecdotal evidence that funds were being redirected to Japanese equities after the Bank of Japan's aggressive easing.

"I haven't advised clients to catch Hong Kong's technical bounce right now. Things can change very fast in this market and the larger funds may not be able be to get out quick," said Hong Hao, chief strategist at Bank of Communication International Securities.

The Hang Seng Index is now 8 percent off a Jan. 30 peak, while the China Enterprises has tumbled 13 percent from a Feb. 1 high. The Shanghai Composite has lost 9 percent from a Feb. 6 high, while the CSI300 has slid 10 percent since Feb. 7.

"Japan is a factor, but people are still not coming back into China equities after the pull back mainly because they are still not seeing much signs of a more solid recovery in the mainland," Hong added.

More Chinese economic data is coming. March money supply and loan growth are due by April 15, while first quarter GDP growth data is due on that date, along with industrial output, retail sales and urban investment data for March.

Data on Tuesday had showed China's annual consumer inflation cooled in March as food prices eased from nine-month highs and producer price deflation deepened, leaving policymakers room to keep monetary conditions easy and nurture a nascent recovery.

On Wednesday, growth-sensitive, mid-sized Chinese banking counters were broadly weaker. China Minsheng Bank sank 2.1 percent in Hong Kong and 0.6 percent in Shanghai.

Ratings agency Fitch cut China's long-term local currency credit rating to A-plus from AA-minus on Tuesday with a stable outlook, citing financial risks from rapid credit expansion alongside the rise of shadow banking activity.

Chinese brokerages fell in the mainland after the official China Securities Journal reported that regulators are likely to bar an unidentified brokerage firm in southern China from sponsoring initial public offerings for three months on suspected fraud in an IPO projects.

In Shanghai, Southwest Securities fell 2.5 percent, while larger rival Citic Securities shed 1 percent and Haitong Securities slipped 0.5 percent.

Chinese insurers were outperformers, extending a rally after posting impressive March premium numbers earlier this week. China Pacific Insurance Corp (CPIC) spiked 6 percent, its best daily gain in Hong Kong since Jan. 2. In Shanghai, the stock rose 1.4 percent.

Goldman Sachs said CPIC and Ping An Insurance posted superlative premium growth in the first quarter, which was driven by their focus on agency quality.

CHALCO JUMPS

Aluminum Corporation of China (Chalco) climbed 3.1 percent in Hong Kong and 5.6 percent in Shanghai following upgrades by a notch to "hold" or "neutral" by Deutsche Bank (DB) and Credit Suisse.

DB's global commodity team went long on aluminum and short on copper in its quarterly report, forecasting the end of copper supply scarcity and the re-rating of copper against aluminum.

China Overseas Land moved up 3.1 percent, leading other Chinese developers higher after it said its total contracted sales in the first quarter amounted to about 40 percent of its 2013 target after a 36 percent month-on-month rise in March.

Chinese premium alcohol producers Kweichow Moutai rose 3.9 percent in Shanghai, while Wuliangye surged 4.6 percent in Shenzhen after local news reports suggested plasticizer standards will soon be relaxed.

The sector has been hard hit by an anti-corruption focus of the new China leadership and a contamination scare late last year following reports that a maker of white spirits added more plasticisers to its products than industrial standards allow.

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