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Banks lead HK gauge slightly higher

THE slump in Chinese mainland stocks pushed Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index off the nine-month high it hit earlier yesterday but the gauge managed to edge up 0.5 percent, rising for a third day in a row and a fourth straight week.

Banks, including HSBC and mainland lenders China Construction Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, led gains in Hong Kong as the latest deluge of data from the mainland and the United States strengthened the case for an early turnaround in the global economy.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index finished up 0.5 percent at 18,889.68 after briefly touching 19,161.97, its highest level since September 25, 2008.

But the index, which has been pushing up against the psychologically significant 19,000-point level for two weeks, was unable to hold above that mark for long.

"Pushing the index above 19,000 points was crucial to creating the impression that this is a bull market," Peter Lai, DBS Vickers director.

"But at this level, selling pressure is very high. Funds that bought into the market at 12,000-13,000 points have already begun to take profit," he said.

Turnover edged up to HK$79 billion (US$10.1 billion), from HK$78.4 billion on Thursday.

The China Enterprises Index of top mainland companies rose 0.1 percent to 11,088.77.

Select industrial stocks and metal counters were buoyed by data that showed the mainland's May factory output rose more than forecast and retail sales growth accelerated.

Mainland bank stocks jumped after data showed new yuan lending rose in May, in line with expectations, and on reports that the country's No.3 lender, CCB, was looking to buy stakes in a domestic insurer and China Cinda Asset Management.

Top lender ICBC gained 2.4 percent to HK$5.22, while CCB climbed 2.9 percent to HK$5.62. Both stocks moved in large volumes, making up 13 percent of total turnover on the bourse in the morning.

The loan data also supported strong gains in mainland property chips, with China Overseas Land climbing 4.5 percent and Guangzhou R&F Properties rising 3 percent.

HSBC climbed 3.5 percent to HK$69.85 on encouraging retail sales and jobs data from the United States.


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