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HK stock market climbs 5.3%

HONG Kong shares shot up 5.3 percent to an eight-month high in resurgent volumes yesterday, with encouraging consumer confidence data from the United States shining the spotlight on a likely global economic recovery.

Hong Kong's market will be closed today for the Dragon Boat Festival holiday.

Chinese mainland banks soared on optimism that new loans in the second quarter would reach 1.5 trillion yuan (US$220 billion) to 1.8 trillion yuan. To complement the mainland's 4 trillion yuan economic stimulus package, banks lent a record 5.17 trillion yuan in the first four months of 2009 - more than the mainland's minimum target of 5 trillion yuan for the whole of the year.

The Bank of China, among Hong Kong's most actively traded stocks, jumped 9.5 percent to HK$3.23 (42 US cents).

Refinery stocks PetroChina and Sinopec also found favor as investors bet on a fuel price increase over the weekend.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index closed up 893.71 points at 17,885.27 after climbing to an intraday high of 17,984.02 points, its highest level since early October 2008.

The China Enterprises Index of top mainland companies advanced 5.4 percent to 10,202.25. Turnover also picked up pace, jumping to a two-week high of HK$93.1 billion from Tuesday's HK$56.3 billion.

Analysts attributed the strong volumes to derivative-related short covering ahead of the expiry late yesterday of May index futures contracts.

"As long as the liquidity keeps flowing in we will keep riding this rally. June could be another month of surprises as funds which have too much cash on hand will be scrambling to invest before the half-year end," said Steven Leung, director with UOB Kay Hian.

Li & Fung, which counts retail giants including Wal-Mart among its customers, soared 10.8 percent to HK$21.30 after US consumer confidence data showed its biggest monthly jump in six years.

Banking stocks took the lead with the United Kingdom's top lender HSBC gaining 5.8 percent, while the world's biggest bank by market capitalization, ICBC, advanced 4.1 percent.

Asia's largest oil and gas producer PetroChina advanced 5.8 percent as crude oil hovered near a six-month high above US$62 per barrel, while a sharp jump on the global dry bulk freight index sent shares of COSCO up 11.8 percent.


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