(Updates to close)
* HSI down 0.04 pct, CSI300 flat
* Cathay Pacific down after H1 earnings underwhelm
* Esprit trims Tuesday's strong gains, new business plan
* MGM China jumps after H1 earnings surprise
By Clement Tan
HONG KONG, Aug 8 Hong Kong shares ended flat on
Wednesday holding close to a three-month high, as investors took
profits ahead of a slew of Chinese economic data, while Standard
Chartered recovered fully from early losses made in
the wake of allegations of money laundering related to Iran.
The Hang Seng Index finished down 0.04 percent at
20,065.5, after finding support at Monday's lows at around
19,978. Overall Hong Kong turnover declined 11 percent from
Standard Chartered finished up 0.8 percent after
opening down more than 3 percent. It had suffered its worst ever
single day loss in Hong Kong on Tuesday when it dropped 14.9
percent after the New York state banking regulator launched an
explosive attack on the bank's alleged money laundering
transactions tied to Iran.
On Wednesday, it emerged that the U.S. Treasury Department
and Federal Reserve were blindsided and angered by that New York
regulator's move, sources familiar with the situation told
Cathay Pacific Airways lost 4.3 percent in heavy
volumes, with losses accelerating in the afternoon after the
company posted its worst first-half loss since 2003 at the
midday trading break.
Esprit Holdings dived 12.2 percent, trimming its
28 percent surge on Tuesday, as investors await more details on
a plan by its new chief to revive the struggling Europe-focused
Some of the bigger gainers earlier this week were some of
the biggest drags on the benchmark index on Wednesday. Want Want
China shed 3.7 percent after rising 2.5 percent in the
two days prior.
Mainland Chinese markets were largely flat. The CSI300 Index
of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings finished
flat, but the Shanghai Composite Index closed up 0.2
percent at its highest since July 20.
"People have been trying to ride the bounce up this week, but
are taking some profits now that we are running into some
technical resistance," said Hong Hao, chief strategist at Bank
of Communications International Securities.
"Moving ahead, I am still sticking to my defensive call.
Earnings are going to disappoint, and data tomorrow will show
the Chinese economy is still weak," Hong added.
Beijing is expected to release a slew of July economic data
from Thursday, starting with inflation, urban investment,
industrial output and retail sales. Analysts expect the data to
show a shallow recovery in the world's second-largest economy.
EARNINGS IN FOCUS
MGM China jumped 5.3 percent after posting
better-than-expected second-quarter results after markets closed
It is now up more than 20 percent for the year to date.
Before Wednesday, it was trading at 9.8 times forward 12-month
earnings, a 12 percent discount to its historical median,
according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.
In contrast, investors punished Cathay Pacific, the world's
largest freight carrier, for posting a net loss of HK$935
million ($120.6 million) for the six months that ended in June.
This lagged an average forecast of a HK$122.5 million profit
from six analysts polled by Reuters and compared with a profit
of HK$2.81 billion ($359.9 million) for the same period last
Prior to the earnings announcement, five out of 21 analysts
downgraded their earnings estimates for Cathay Pacific by an
average of 18.8 percent in the last 30 days, according to
Thomson Reuters StarMine.
Hong Kong's dominant airline now stands 7.2 percent down for
the year so far, compared to a gain of 8.8 percent for the Hang
(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)