HONG KONG, March 13 (Reuters) - Hong Kong stocks ended lower on Thursday, thanks to disappointing China economic data in the afternoon that caused an index of Chinese shares listed in the city to close at a fresh eight-month low.
China's industrial output growth came in below forecasts for the combined January/February period, with retail sales also weaker than expected, continuing a run of sluggish data from the world's second-largest economy.
The benchmark Hang Seng Index ended down 0.7 percent at 21,756.1 points, the lowest close since Feb. 10. The China Enterprises Index of the top offshore Chinese listings in Hong Kong eased 0.4 percent to 9,322.9 points, the lowest close since July 10.
Chinese banks gained support on reports about an anticipated preferred shares pilot programme in the mainland that they could be the first ones to join.
Property developer Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd fell more than 10 percent to its lowest close since June after UBS downgraded it to neutral from buy because of lower gross margins and higher operating expenses.