Hong Kong shares post 4th straight gain, China off day's high
* HSI +0.9 pct, H-shares +1.5 pct, CSI300 +0.5 pct
* China trade data beats expectations, but scepticism lingers
* Zoomlion surges on China excavator sales improvement
* Esprit dives after profit warning, adds to HSI exclusion talk
* China Modern Diary slides after Mengniu raises stake
By Clement Tan
HONG KONG, May 8 (Reuters) - Shares in Hong Kong rose for a fourth session on Wednesday while mainland China markets also extended gains, buoyed by robust Chinese trade performance in April that came ahead of other economic data due this week.
Gains came in rising volumes, although onshore China finished off the day's highs. Although April trade data surpassed market expectations, some in the market remained sceptical about the figures reflecting real demand due to financial manoeuvring by exporters.
The Hang Seng Index ended up 0.9 percent to 23,191.1, its highest closing level since Feb. 20. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong climbed 1.5 percent.
The CSI300 of the leading Shanghai and Shenzhen A-shares listings closed up 0.5 percent for its fifth-straight daily gain. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5 percent in its fourth gain as volumes improved slightly from Tuesday, staying above average for a fourth-straight session.
Hong Kong turnover was at its highest since April 19. At $8.4 billion, this was some 12 percent above its average in the last month.
"There's definitely some scepticism on the trade data, but the beat is helping to magnify the gains for some of the more down-trodden cyclical stocks," said Wang Ao-chao, UOB Kay Hian's Shanghai-based head of research, referring to the better-than-expected trade figures.
"Investors have been rotating into these beta names for a while now, but there's nothing to suggest much has fundamentally changed too much. I would actually also advise clients to buy into some of the quality defensives on weakness," Wang added.
Zoomlion Heavy Industry posted its best day in five months in Hong Kong, surging 6.4 percent after the China Construction Machinery Association said excavator monthly sales in the mainland posted year-on-year growth in April for the first time in two years.
While this is positive news, with April typically accounting for up to 15 percent of total annual sales, one month of positive growth from a low base does not suggest a compelling recovery, analysts at Sun Hung Kai Financial said.
Gains on Wednesday helped Zoomlion cut 2013 losses to 27 percent, compared to the 1.3 percent slide on the H-share index. Its Shenzhen listing rose 1.9 percent, while larger rival Sany Heavy Industry climbed 2.2 percent in Shanghai.
Beijing is expected to post April inflation data on Thursday, with money supply and loan growth due from Friday.
According to a Reuters poll consensus median, the annual consumer price index likely rose 2.3 percent in April, up from 2.1 percent in March. Producer price deflation is forecast at 2.3 percent compared to a year ago, the deepest in six months.
EARNINGS IN FOCUS
Esprit Holdings is headed for its worst day in six months, tumbling 4.8 percent after it warned of substantial losses in the second half due to soaring costs related to store closures and acquisitions in China.
The profit warning added to chatter of its possible exclusion from the Hang Seng Index, when the index manager releases its quarterly review after markets close this Friday.
HSBC climbed 1.7 percent to its highest close since Feb. 4 after first-quarter earnings nearly doubled due to the bank's three-year efficiency drive and a halving in bad debt charges.
By contrast, its rival Standard Chartered reversed gains after reporting at midday an unexpected wobble in quarterly operating profit, diving 3.5 percent in heavy volumes. The steep intra-day reversal leaves StanChart shares vulnerable to more losses in the short term.
China Modern Diary suffered its worst daily loss since December 2011, diving 6.5 percent after China Mengniu Diary purchased a HK$3.18 billion ($409.78 million) stake from KKR-backed Advanced Dairy SPA and CDH-backed Crystal Dairy SPA at HK$2.45 per share, a 12.2 percent discount from its Tuesday closing price.
The purchase raised Mengniu's stake in China Modern to 28 percent. Mengniu shares in Hong Kong inched up 0.2 percent.
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