* HSI +0.7 pct, H-shares +0.6 pct, CSI300 -0.8 pct
* CSI300, Shanghai Comp in third-straight monthly loss
* HK has second-best week in 2013, but turnover very weak
* BYD has best day in 17 months on earnings turnaround
* China Southern Airlines dives after Q1 earnings miss
By Clement Tan
HONG KONG, April 26 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares rose to their highest since mid-March on Friday but in weak turnover, as a recovery in physical commodity prices helped magnify earnings-driven strength in Chinese companies showing signs of a turnaround.
Mainland China shares ended April with a whimper, with growth-sensitive counters from railway to shipbuilders leading index losses ahead of a three-day Labour Day holiday next week. Trading will resume on May 2.
The CSI300 of the leading Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings slid 0.8 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index shed 1 percent to 2,177.9, its lowest closing level since Christmas Eve and barely above its 200-day moving average - a technical level that it has tested about six times in April.
They each suffered a third-straight monthly loss, sliding 1.9 and 2.6 percent in April, respectively. Both have unwound more than 10 percent from 2013 peaks in early February and are now down 3 and 4 percent for the year, respectively.
On Friday, the Hang Seng Index rose 0.7 percent to 22,547.7, its highest close since March 14. It rose 2.4 percent this week and has now spiked 4.8 percent from a five-month low on April 18.
The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong rose 0.6 percent on the day and 2.3 percent on the week. This was the best week for both Hong Kong indexes since the week that ended Jan. 4.
But gains in Hong Kong came in weak turnover this week, which was some 13 percent below this year’s average, on a weekly basis. Shanghai volumes in April were its weakest since November.
“Volumes are still low, but the earnings season is showing some individual companies are starting to show they are not doing too badly, so this might be a good time for value investors to start accumulating some positions,” said Larry Jiang, chief strategist at Guotai Junan International Securities.
The Warren Buffett-backed Chinese automaker BYD Co Ltd surged 12.2 percent in its best day in 17 months in Hong Kong after reporting that quarterly profit tripled and forecasting a surge in first half profit. Its Shenzhen listing rose 3.1 percent.
Most other Chinese automakers have outperformed this week on improved expectations at the ongoing Shanghai Auto Show, including Great Wall Motor , which reported quarterly results that were broadly in line with expectations.
But investors took that as a sign to take some profit, trimming strong weekly gains after UBS downgraded their view on Great Wall Motor’s H-share listing from “neutral” to “sell,” believing earnings growth expectations from its new models are too high.
Great Wall shed 2.3 percent in Hong Kong, trimming gains on the week to 15.8 percent. Its Shanghai listing skidded 2.7 percent on the day.
Another company that could see more investor’s interest following robust quarterly earnings is China Unicom after China’s second-largest mobile operator posted an 89 percent rise in net profit for the January-March period due to a rising number of subscribers spending more on data.
Its shares in Hong Kong climbed 2.6 percent on Friday to extend a recent recovery of its share price to close at its highest since March 8.
Bank of China rose 1.4 percent after the country’s fourth-largest lender posted quarterly net profit that grew 8 percent, broadly in line with expectations.
The bank said its non-performing loan ratio was 0.91 percent, down from 0.95 percent at the end of last year. Its net interest margin widened to 2.22 percent from 2.15 percent a year ago, setting the stage for the earnings of its “Big Four” Chinese banking peers later in the day
In Hong Kong, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China rose 0.7 percent, while China Construction Bank added 0.8 percent ahead of quarterly reports after market close on Friday.
China Southern Airlines slid 4 percent in its worst loss in three weeks in Hong Kong after its quarterly net profit slumped a worse-than-expected 82 percent. Friday’s losses trimmed its 2013 gains to 4.3 percent.
China Southern is now trading at a 37 percent discount to its forward 12-month earnings multiple, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine. This is much bigger than Air China’s 27 percent discount, but smaller than China Eastern Airlines’ 47 percent discount.