Hong Kong stocks fall as Alibaba rally cools; China data in focus

HONG KONG, March 30 (Reuters) - Hong Kong stocks retreated on Thursday, after seeing sharp gains in the previous session following Alibaba’s restructuring plan, while shares in China inched lower ahead of manufacturing activity data due this week.

** China’s blue-chip CSI 300 Index edged down 0.18%, while the Shanghai Composite Index slid 0.24% to be on track for a fifth day of decline.

** Hang Seng Index dropped 0.69%, while Hang Seng China Enterprises Index lost 0.94%.

** China’s economic performance has improved in March from the first two months and the country will expand domestic demand and consolidate its economic recovery, Premier Li Qiang said on Thursday at an economic forum in Boao.

** Alibaba Group said on Thursday it will look to monetise non-core assets and consider giving up control of some businesses.

** Group CEO Daniel Zhang said the company’s breakup into separate businesses will allow its units to become more agile and eventually list on their own.

** Shares of Alibaba in Hong Kong opened up 2.7% following the 12% jump on Wednesday, but gains narrowed to 0.9% in midday.

** Linus Yip, chief strategist at First Shanghai Securities, said easing market concerns on banking crisis and Alibaba’s news have helped Hong Kong stocks rebound recently.

** “But shares in Hong Kong are likely to remain range-bound as U.S. interest rate outlook uncertainties continue to weigh and as investors eye upcoming domestic data to assess whether the economic recovery has sustained,” Yip said.

** China will announce the March official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) on Friday.

** Pro-business policy signals have certainly come through loud and clear — Beijing intensified its charm offensive as the new cabinet took office in March, Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note.

** Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Tech Index went down 1.1%. Tencent dropped 0.9%.

** In China A-shares, telecom stocks retreated 2.3%, while education companies fell 1.1% to lead the decline. (Reporting by Summer Zhen; editing by Uttaresh Venkateshwaran)