* HSI +0.3 pct, H-shares -0.2 pct, CSI300 +0.2 pct
* Li & Fung spikes after it says 2013 performance 'solid'
* Daphne leads gains in footwear sector after Nomura upgrade
* Two Macau casinos at record highs again on bullish Citi note
By Clement Tan
HONG KONG, Jan 7 Strength in the shares of exporter Li & Fung and China-focused footwear retailers helped secure a slim gain for Hong Kong's benchmark index early on Tuesday, while mainland Chinese markets moved off five-month lows in muted volumes.
In the mainland, investors awaited the pricing of the first A-share initial public offering approvals since October 2012 for signs of how the market will react to a flood of new listings at a time of tightening money supply.
A total of 29 IPOs have been approved. The first two Chinese companies to publish fundraising targets plan to raise a combined 1.02 billion yuan ($167.7 million) as their IPOs come to the market later this week.
"There's not been so many IPOs coming to the A-share market at the same time in recent memory, so people are waiting to see how a credit-starved market take to that," said Jackson Wong, Tanrich Securities vice-president for equity sales.
At midday, the Hang Seng Index was up 0.3 percent at 22,762.3 points. The China Enterprises Index of the top offshore Chinese listings in Hong Kong slipped 0.2 percent to a 12-week trough.
The Shanghai Composite Index and the CSI300 of the largest Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings, which closed on Monday at their lowest since August, each inched up 0.2 percent.
While new shadow banking regulations again put Chinese financial counters under pressure, there were gains for Shanghai-related counters after the State Council announced adjustments to operating guidelines for the city's free trade zone (FTZ).
Shanghai International Port jumped by the 10 percent limit and free trade zone operator Waigaoqiao rose nearly 6 percent. Bestv New Media spiked 7.7 percent after the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology started soliciting opinions on ways to deregulate the Shanghai FTZ's telecommunication sector.
Other reform moves in the financial sector crimped index gains. After a fresh bid by China's cabinet to curb shadow banking, the banking regulator announced a pilot scheme allowing the establishment of three to five private banks in a move that would create more competition for existing lenders.
China Construction Bank sank 1.7 percent in Shanghai and 0.7 percent in Hong Kong. Ping An Insurance slid 0.9 percent in both Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Footwear retailer Daphne International surged 11.3 percent to HK$3.74 after Nomura analysts upgraded their rating to "buy" from "reduce", and raised their target price by nearly 90 percent to HK$6.20.
Li & Fung soared 7.3 percent in robust volumes after the global supply chain operator described its 2013 performance as "solid" while adding that it has established a vendor support service unit as part of its business plan for the next three years.
The Macau casino sector was again strong. Citi analysts added to the bullish chorus, believing 2014 will be a watershed year for Macau and U.S. gambling stocks and setting revenue growth estimates for the Chinese territory at 20 percent.
Galaxy Entertainment climbed 4.9 percent and Sands China 4 percent, taking both to record highs.