China H-shares touch 4-1/2-month lows, Shanghai slips below 2,000

Sun Jan 19, 2014 11:48pm EST

* HSI -0.5 pct, H-shares -0.8 pct, CSI300 -0.4 pct

* China 7-day repo spike 125 bps, liquidity woes fester

* Glorious Property sinks after privatisation fails

* First Tractor spikes on news of China's policy priorities

By Clement Tan

HONG KONG, Jan 20 (Reuters) - China shares listed in Hong Kong fell to 4-1/2-month lows early on Monday, then trimmed losses after data showed the world's second-largest economy grew at a slightly faster-than-expected pace in the fourth quarter.

Mainland markets were less sanguine about China's growth report as liquidity woes festered, with the benchmark seven-day repo rate soaring 125 basis points to 6.42 percent in what could be its biggest one-day spike since September.

At midday, the Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.4 percent to 1,996.5 points, dipping below a key 2,000-point level and to its lowest since July 31. The CSI300 of the largest Shanghai and Shenzhen A-shares also was down 0.4 percent.

The Hang Seng Index shed 0.4 percent. The China Enterprises Index of the leading offshore Chinese listings in Hong Kong went into the lunch break down 0.8 percent after earlier being off 1.4 percent to its lowest point since Sept. 2.

China's annual growth eased to 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, slightly ahead of expectations for 7.6 percent, although the rate of growth on a quarterly basis was slower than anticipated.

"Q4 GDP growth data was broadly in line, so it's unlikely to arouse any real excitement. The key here is that we're unlikely to see any cash injection this week by the central bank so conditions will remain tight," said Hong Hao, chief strategist at Bank of Communications International.

While cash rates are still way off record highs set at the end of June, a repeat is feared with Beijing bent on tightening liquidity this year, and with the resumption of initial public offerings seen injecting more competition for already limited cash.

Compounding liquidity jitters on Monday, the Shenzhen exchange said eight IPOS were due to be launched on Tuesday. Approvals for new issues only resumed this month after a halt of more than a year.

Chinese banks were among the biggest index drags, as were most growth-sensitive counters. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) sank 1.2 percent in Hong Kong and 0.6 percent in Shanghai.

Anhui Conch Cement dived 3.3 percent in Hong Kong and 2.6 percent in Shanghai, reversing strong gains last week after China's largest cement producer issued a positive profit alert.

Glorious Property shares plummeted 28 percent to their lowest since October after shareholders voted against a privatisation plan by its Chinese billionaire owner.

Shares of auto dealer Zhongsheng Group Holdings jumped 9.7 percent after it said it will raise up to HK$5.6 billion ($722 million) by issuing new shares and a convertible bond to Jardine Strategic Holdings Limited.

First Tractor spiked 6.4 percent after the official Xinhua news agency reported that China's top policy priorities for 2014 will be improving the rural environment and maintaining food security.