Hong Kong share index falls to 3-month low on weak private sector activity

Jan 6 (Reuters) - Hong Kong’s benchmark index fell to a three-month low, while a gauge tracking Chinese companies almost touched its lowest since mid-2013, hit by weakness in private sector activity in the territory.

The Hang Seng index fell 1.0 percent, to 20,980.81, the lowest level since Sept 30. The China Enterprises Index lost 0.9 percent, to 9,137.79 points, coming close to the lowest level since June, 2013.

Sentiment was hurt by a survey showing private sector activity shrank again in December for the 10th month running, with the rate of contraction the steepest since September.

The market was little helped by a strong rebound in mainland shares, as Hong Kong authorities issued a holiday health alert after a woman in nearby Shenzhen died after being infected with the highly contagious H5N6 bird flu virus.

With Hang Seng trading at a modest valuation of 8.2 times earnings, and HSCEI trading at a price/earnings ratio of 6.8 times, some analysts are questioning if the decline is overdone.

“Is it really that bad?” Oliver Barron, analyst at China-focused investment bank NSBO wrote in a report on Wednesday, commenting on the weakness in the HSCEI. “While markets may lack a clear catalyst as we enter 2016, China is also not close to collapsing, as markets feared in June 2013.”

He added: “There are still sufficient tools, monetary and fiscal, to continue the muddle-through approach that has prevailed for the last 3 years.”

On Wednesday, all main sectors lost ground, with the only exception being resource shares.

The Hong Kong-listed shares of developer China Vanke slumped 9 percent as trade resumed, after it said the company was still in the process of negotiating the terms of a possible asset restructuring. (Reporting by Samuel Shen and Pete Sweeney; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)