HK Stocks lower amid uncertainties as year end nears

2007-12-28 04:10:26 Xinhua English

HONG KONG, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- Hong Kong stocks on Friday moved within a relatively narrow range, opening and closing lower on the last but one trading day ahead of year end, as investors were cautious over uncertainties lying ahead.

The blue chip Hang Seng Index opened at 27,511.54, down 331.39 points or 1.19 percent, climbed to narrow its losses at 27,546.82 at the end of morning trading, but lost more ground in the afternoon to finish even lower at 27,370.60.

The closing figure, though lower from the previous session and even lower from the record high of 31,638 points seen on Oct. 30, 2007, was much higher than the highest level of the benchmark index during the year 2006 at 20,001 points.

The market's key barometer on Friday moved within the range of 27,296.86 and 27,678.40 on a turnover of 78.22 billion HK dollars (10.03 billion U.S dollars), modest if compared with the usually remarkable volume figures in recent months but higher than the turnover of 76.6 billion HK dollars recorded on Thursday.

Only 5 out of the 43 blue chips were gainers, with BOC Hong Kong moving up 0.4 HK dollars, or 1.9 percent, at 21.45 HK dollars while Henderson Land added 1.15 HK dollars, or 1.61 percent, to close at 72.75 HK dollars.

The heavy-weighted HSBC Holdings lost 0.6 HK dollars, or 0.46 percent, at 131 HK dollars while its local unit Hang Seng Bank went down 4.1 HK dollar, or 2.54 percent, to close at 157.6 HK dollars.

China Mobile, the largest mobile carrier by far on China's mainland, continued its losing run, down 3.6 HK dollars, or 2.6 percent, to close at 135 HK dollars.

Analysts attributed the decline to falls in regional markets and the U.S. markets, as well as concerns over the uncertainties falling out from the assassination of Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in her country on the previous evening.

Concerns over the U.S. economic prospect, following weaker-than- expected goods orders data released overnight, coupled with rising oil prices and the settlement of December futures, also kept investors cautious, they added.

Analysts further said they expected the Hang Seng Index to move within a narrow range at the present level, with only a shortened session left on Monday for 2007.

Bank of East Asia, one of the major local banks operating in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in south China, was lower in the morning but rebounded to close up 1.4 HK dollars, or 2.72 percent, at 52.9 HK dollars.

The rise came after news that Criteria CaixaCorp, a unit of Spanish bank La Caixa, had agreed to raise its stake to 8.89 percent from 4.34 percent, at the cost of 3.95 billion HK dollars (0.51 billion U.S. dollars), a move that was expected to help strengthen Bank of East Asia's capital base by about 1.5 percent.

The news also helped share prices of BOC Hong Kong, which had bought a stake of similar size in Bank of East Asia at the cost of3.95 billion HK dollars.

Bank of China, one of the big four state-owned commercial banks on the mainland, went down 0.08 HK dollars, or 2.08 percent, at 3.77 HK dollars.

The finance sub-index lost 436.79 points, or 1.1 percent, at 39,245.20, with ICBC losing 0.13 HK dollars, or 2.29 percent, at 5.55HK dollars and insurer China Life down 0.8 HK dollars, or 1.96 percent, at 40.05 HK dollars.

The utilities sub-index went down 407.17 points, or 1 percent, at 40,296.48.

The commerce and industry issues suffered the most among the 4 categories, down 365.46 points, or 2.2 percent, at 16,263.14, followed by the properties genre, down 821.09 points, or 2.19 percent, to close at 36,664.82.