* HSI +0.6 pct, H-shares +0.8 pct, CSI300 +0.1 pct
* China energy majors up on hopes for pricing reforms
* Consumer plays rise on reports of stimulus measures
* Financial A-shares weak, stall China rally
By Clement Tan
HONG KONG, Dec 19 Hong Kong shares climbed to a
near 17-month high on Wednesday as investors cheered signs that
the U.S. can avert its "fiscal cliff" and welcomed Chinese news
reports that Beijing planners want to give markets more freedom
to determine energy prices.
On mainland markets, though, a three-day rally ran out of
steam due to weakness in financial sector stocks after media
reports said the banking regulator ordered banks to tighten
checks on the sale of third-party financial products.
The Hang Seng Index closed up 0.6 percent at
22,623.4, its highest close since Aug. 1, 2011. Stiff chart
resistance is next seen at about 22,800, peaks reached in
The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese
listings in Hong Kong climbed 0.8 percent. It is now up 14.6
percent on the year, compared with the 22.7 percent jump on the
Hang Seng Index.
In the mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index ended flat,
while the CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen
listings edged up 0.1 percent to 2,371.1, its highest close
A 12.4 percent bounce off Dec. 3's lowest point since early
2009 has moved the CSI300 edge into positive territory for the
year. Now up 1.1 percent in 2012, it next faces chart resistance
at around 2,412, peaks in August this year.
The Shanghai Composite Index is still down 1.7 percent on
On Wednesday, Shanghai volume was the lowest since last
Thursday, while Hong Kong turnover dipped below its 20-day
moving average for the first time since Dec. 4.
"I think the market might be too optimistic on the pace of
reform or additional policy support that the incoming Chinese
leadership will take in 2013," said Edward Huang, Haitong
International Securities' equity strategist.
"I won't be surprised if turnover drops off as we close out
2013 and people go on holiday, stalling the rally in Hong Kong,"
On Wednesday, state-run newspapers reported that China's
National Development and Reform Commission, the powerful
economic planner, vowed to further push resources price reform
for refined oil, natural gas and coal among others.
China Shenhua Energy Co Ltd, the country's biggest
coal producer, jumped 3.2 percent to its highest in a month in
Hong Kong. It rose 1.2 percent in Shanghai.
The Australian Financial Review reported that Shenhua was
told to come back with a full takeover offer after it had talked
to Australia's Whitehaven Coal about taking a stake.
In Hong Kong, CNOOC Ltd rose 1.1 percent, while
PetroChina gained 1.5 percent and China Petroleum and
Chemical Corp (Sinopec) climbed 1.7 percent.
Chinese consumer stocks rose after state-run media carried
comments from China's Ministry of Finance saying that
consumption stimulus measures will be introduced in 2013 and
reported a ministry estimates that retail sales rose 14.3
percent this year.
Haier Electronics rose 2.1 percent in Hong Kong,
while Suning Appliance moved up 1.2 percent in
Li Ning, the beleaguered Chinese sports brand that
has shifted focus to the domestic market, surged 8.1 percent.
Chinese automakers were also strong on hopes of improved
domestic demand in the lead-up to the Spring Festival in
February 2013, the state-run China Securities Journal reported
on its website.
The bigger gainers were those with joint ventures with
Japanese counterparts, which rose on a weaker yen on the day.
Changan Auto, which has a JV with Suzuki, surged
the maximum 10 percent in Shenzhen. Dongfeng Motor Group
, with Nissan and Honda JVs, jumped 5.4 percent in Hong
ESPIRT TUMBLES AFTER WARNING OF LOSS
Bucking broader market strength, Esprit Holdings
tumbled 4.5 percent to its lowest since Nov. 14 after the
Europe-focused retailer warned of a possible loss for the six
months ending in December, triggering a raft of broker
Morgan Stanley downgraded Esprit to "underweight" from
"equal weight" while revising its earnings forecast for the year
ending June 2013 to a net loss of HK$144 million from a HK$695
Chinese banking shares listed in the mainland were also
weak, as investors took profit after the sector's recent
outperformance. In Shanghai, Industrial and Commercial Bank of
China (ICBC) shed 0.5 percent from a six-month high