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HK ends quarter with only a whimper

HONG Kong shares finished their best quarter in more than 15 years with a whimper yesterday as investors locked in some of the gains made during a stellar four-month rally that began in March.

The index tacked on 35.4 percent in its biggest quarterly advance since the October-December period in 1993 when low interest rates in the United States and Chinese mainland economic awakening drove investors into Asia's high-growth "tiger" economies.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index finished down 0.81 percent at 18,378.73, but tacked on 1.1 percent in its fourth straight month of gains in June.

The 42-stock gauge rose 27.7 percent in the first half, buoyed by signs of a likely early recovery in the mainland economy, and is valued at 16.5 times estimated earnings in 2009, compared with less than 10 times at the beginning of the year.

"What we saw was the reversal of the panic selling in the fourth quarter of 2008, with central governments across the world doing the right thing. But from here on it is a lot harder to see where we are headed," said Winson Fong, managing director with SG Asset Management in Hong Kong.

The China Enterprises Index, which represents top locally listed mainland stocks, slipped 0.2 percent to 10,962.61.

Chinese sportswear retailer 361 Degrees International rose 7.8 percent from its initial public offering price on its debut on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

The stock closed at HK$3.89 (50.02 US cents) after opening at HK$4.13 and hitting HK$4.28, compared with its initial public offering price of HK$3.61.


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