Hong Kong shares at 3-week high, China Life Insurance soars

HONG KONG Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:07am EST

HONG KONG Feb 17 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares closed at their highest in three weeks on Monday, thanks to robust Chinese bank lending data and a rally by mainland insurers after China Life Insurance reported strong January premium growth.

The Hang Seng Index finished up 1.1 percent at 22,535.9 points, its highest since Jan. 23. The China Enterprises Index of the leading offshore Chinese listings in Hong Kong climbed 1.7 percent.

Gains came in relatively lackluster turnover, with much focused on China Life Insurance, whose shares jumped 5.8 percent, its biggest single-day gain since Nov. 18.

After the market closed on Friday, China's largest insurer posted a 73 percent jump in January premium income from a year earlier. That spurred at least two broker upgrades.

On Saturday, January bank lending figures handily beat expectations, in spite of a credit clampdown by the Chinese central bank. The loan news followed earlier announcement of solid China trade and benign inflation data.

Tencent Holdings jumped nearly 6 percent to a record high after several mainland and Hong Kong media reported it may invest $400 million in Chinese restaurant-review site Dianping.

Tencent and Dianping declined to comment. Monday's rise took Tencent's market capitalization to nearly $132 billion.