Stocks end higher as property counters and oil firms support main indices on upbeat home sales, rising crude prices Stocks finished slightly higher yesterday, after investors appeared less concerned than their regional peers about signs of strong growth in the United States leading to more aggressive rate increases. Property stocks and oil producers continued to support the main indices following upbeat home sales over the weekend and a fourth day of rising crude prices. Ping An Insurance was the top performing H share on news that HSBC will double its stake in the company. The Hang Seng Index added 51.13 points, or 0.36 per cent, to 14,085.09 after a range-bound session, which saw it shake off a low of 14,006.85 and close near its intraday high of 14,106.53 thanks to a futures-led rebound in the final 45 minutes of trading. Other major Asian markets, including Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei, were dragged lower by a sell-off in export stocks after data showed the US economy added 274,000 new jobs last month, compared with expectations of about 170,000. The news caused concern that the Federal Reserve may be forced to dampen the stronger-than-expected momentum in the economy by increasing the pace of rate rises, which could slow demand for goods imported from Asia. Brokers said Hong Kong was able to shake off these concerns as the speculation of a yuan revaluation continued to underpin the market and kept interest rates in check. Blue-chip exporters Li & Fung, Johnson Electric and Yue Yuen Industrial were all higher. 'Hong Kong is still looking okay as the hot money hasn't left yet, but at these levels people are also happy to take a breather,' said Herbert Lau, the head of research at Celestial Asia Securities. The HSI has closed above 14,000 for the past three sessions, but the 14,100 level continues to be elusive, despite brief intraday moves above that level. 'We are still looking for leads from the US,' said Phillip Securities director Louis Wong Wai-kit, noting that this week the attention will be on Thursday's release for last month's sales data and earnings reports from top retailers, including Wal-Mart and Target. 'They will be seen as a barometer for consumer sentiment and if they can push the Dow [Jones Industrial Average] above 10,400 it will provide some impetus for Hong Kong,' he said. On Friday the Dow closed at 10,345.4 points. China Mobile, which is seen as a key beneficiary from a potential yuan appreciation, gained another 0.9 per cent to $27.75 and China Unicom added 0.79 per cent to $6.35. China Netcom, which may be included in the HSI soon, rose 0.93 per cent to $10.75. HSBC traded flat to lower for most of the day before closing unchanged at $126.50, while blue-chip oil producer CNOOC edged up 2.33 per cent to $4.375. Oil prices held above US$51 per barrel on news that Opec does not plan to increase output at its next meeting. PetroChina gained 1.57 per cent to $4.825 and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp was up 1.62 per cent at $3.125. Among the property developers, Sun Hung Kai Properties gained 0.66 per cent to $76.25 and Cheung Kong added 0.67 per cent to $74.50. New World Development, which partly sparked the buying enthusiasm after reporting brisk sales of almost $1 billion at its Grandiose residential project in Tseung Kwan O, finished unchanged at $8.40. Other top blue-chip performers included fashion retailer Esprit, which hit an intraday record of $59.75 before closing at $59.25, up 2.15 per cent on the day. Lenovo fell 1.92 per cent on profit-taking after rallying 7.21 per cent in the previous two days on completing its purchase of International Business Machines' personal computer business and a plan to buy back some of the shares used to pay for it. Ping An jumped 5.37 per cent to $12.75 after HSBC said it would pay $8.1 billion to double its stake in the insurer to 19.9 per cent. While the stake acquisition by HSBC reflected confidence in the company's business, yesterday's improvement in the insurer's share price was 'mainly stimulated by the purchase price', Mr Wong added. HSBC has agreed to pay $13.20 per share, or a 9 per cent premium to Friday's close.