* HSI +0.9 pct, H-shares +1.6 pct, CSI300 +0.2 pct
* Robust China loan data spurs guarded cyclical gains
* Chinese insurers jump after January premium growth
* Daqin Railway sheds early gains despite policy news
By Clement Tan
HONG KONG, Feb 17 Hong Kong shares hit their
highest in three weeks early on Monday, led by insurers which
posted strong January premium growth and helped by robust China
bank lending data.
But mainland markets were less sanguine, with mid-sized
banks among the biggest drags on the index. Still, gains on the
day helped push the Shanghai Composite Index into
positive territory in 2014 for the first time.
At midday, the CSI300 of the largest Shanghai and
Shenzhen A-share listings was up 0.2 percent, while the Shanghai
Composite Index rose 0.5 percent and was now up 0.5 percent on
the year. The CSI300 was still down more than 1 percent in 2014.
The Hang Seng Index rose 0.9 percent to 22,497.8
points, while the China Enterprises Index of the leading
offshore Chinese listings in Hong Kong climbed 1.6 percent. Both
were at their highest since Jan. 24.
The batch of January data that's come out "is soothing some
fears on growth in the mainland, although I don't think it has
fundamentally changed anything," said Jackson Wong, Tanrich
Securities' vice-president for equity sales.
Despite a credit clampdown by the Chinese central bank, bank
lending figures for January released on Saturday handily beat
expectations, adding to solid trade and benign inflation data
that came out earlier.
Investors will likely look towards the earnings season for
company-specific guidance on growth starting later this month,
given the batch of official data came so soon after four
separate surveys about China's manufacturing and services
sectors had showed growth sliding to multi-month or multi-year
lows in January.
HIGHER FREIGHT RATES?
"Still, this should persuade some investors to relook some
of the more unloved cyclical sectors in the short term, starting
with the financials ahead of earnings and China's annual
parliamentary meetings in early March," Wong added.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and
China Construction Bank each rose more than 1 percent
in Hong Kong. China Minsheng Bank rose 0.9
percent in Hong Kong, but sank 2.3 percent in Shanghai.
The Chinese rail sector in Hong Kong was buoyed by state
media reports that the National Development and Reform
Commission has raised railway freight charges by 12.5 percent
China Railway Group rose 1.4 percent in
Hong Kong but was flat in Shanghai. Daqin Railway
dived 3.6 percent in Shanghai after earlier rising as much as
3.7 percent. If losses hold, this intra-day reversal is a
bearish sign pointing to further short-term losses.
Strength in premium liquor makers held up mainland indexes.
Kweichow Moutai extended its post-Lunar New Year
rally on positive sales during the week-long holiday, surging
4.7 percent in Shanghai.
China Life Insurance's H-share listing headed for
its biggest single day gain since Nov. 18, soaring 6.5 percent
after posting January premium income of 80.9 billion yuan ($13.3
billion). Its A-share listing climbed more than 2
percent in Shanghai.
Credit Suisse analysts upgraded China Life from "neutral" to
"outperform", citing new product launches, strong bancassurance
sales and a renewed focus on driving growth as the main factors.