Hang Seng Index

Hang Seng starts Year of the Snake on a high note

Mainland banks and developers lead the gains on the back of strong loan and home sales figures but buying appetite remains weak

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 7:12am

Investors returned from the Lunar New Year holiday to a buoyant day of trading on the Hong Kong stock market yesterday, with the Hang Seng Index adding 198.09 points, or 0.85 per cent, to close at 23,413.25.

"The Hong Kong market has kicked off the Year of the Snake on a strong note, helped by gains on other Asian bourses," Renee Wong at China International Capital Corporation said in a research note to clients. "Volumes are a touch on the quiet side, as expected with [mainland] China still on holiday."

Stock markets on the mainland and in Taiwan will reopen on Monday.

Mainland banks and developers led the gains in Hong Kong despite low trading volumes. Retail and gaming stocks were also among the leaders.

But buying appetite was weak overall, with market turnover, at HK$57.8 billion, falling short of last year's average of about HK$80 billion.

Shares in mainland banks rose, thanks to better-than-expected loan data for last month. Loans totalled 1.07 trillion yuan (HK$1.32 trillion), beating market expectations of about 1 trillion yuan.

Bank of China added 2.4 per cent to HK$3.83. Its smaller rival, Shanghai-based Bank of Communications, partly owned by HSBC, gained 2.27 per cent to HK$6.30. HSBC rose 1.5 per cent to HK$87.65.

Mainland developers gained after home sales in Shenzhen reportedly jumped 32 per cent last month from December, a clear sign of recovery in the property market. China Resources Land ended 3.29 per cent higher at HK$21.95, while Agile Property, one of its major rivals in southern China, edged up 0.6 per cent to HK$10.12.

Local retailers surprised the market with strong gains as investors chased these stocks after the South China Morning Post reported tourist arrivals jumped 33 per cent year on year on the first three days of the Lunar New Year holiday. Chow Tai Fook, a leading retailer of luxury jewellery, advanced 2.58 per cent to HK$11.94.

Macau gaming stocks also rallied on news that the number of visitors to the enclave hit a record during the holiday. The tourism office said the number of visits over the first five days of the holiday leapt 20.4 per cent year on year, with mainlanders accounting for 65 per cent.

Melco Crown Entertainment surged 5.65 per cent to a record HK$54.25.

Separately, state-owned energy firm CNOOC gained 1.93 per cent to HK$15.88 as its acquisition of Canada's Nexen received final approval.

Investors' spirits may have been lifted by remarks by stock exchange chairman Chow Chung-kong who said at an opening ceremony that continued economic recovery in the United States, Europe and Asia would support the Hong Kong stock market this year. HKEx chief executive Charles Li Xiaojia also said he believed the Year of the Snake would be a good one for Hong Kong stocks.

Meanwhile, the exchange plans to launch after-hours futures trading on April 8, its latest effort to boost trading volumes.