* CSI300 +0.3 pct ;SSEC +0.3 pct ;HSI +0.1 pct
* Oil stocks up on Middle East tension; railway stocks surge
* Nasdaq-style ChiNext fall over 4 pct at one point
SHANGHAI, March 26 (Reuters) - Shares in China and Hong Kong edged higher on Thursday as oil prices bounced, pushing up energy shares.
Both The CSI300 index and the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.3 percent by the midday break, with the energy index climbing 1.2 percent as oil prices shot up nearly 6 percent after Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies started air strikes against revels in Yemen.
Oil companies including PetroChina, and Offshore Oil Engineering rose, while China CNR Corp and CSR Corp Ltd surged on expectations of imminent merger of the two train-making giants.
But ChiNext, the Nasdaq-style board for start-ups, plunged over 4 percent, before recovering some of its losses by midday.
“After consecutive sessions of rises, fluctuations are very natural,” said Zhang Chen, analyst at Shanghai-based hedge fund manager Hongyi Investment.
“The market is hot, but not yet too crazy. This is a big bull market and we’re just mid-way.”
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index and the China Enterprises Index ended the morning marginally higher but still outperformed most other Asian share markets, which were mostly down on tensions in the Middle East and losses on Wall Street.
After consolidating early this year, China’s stock markets have resumed their climb in recent weeks, taking gains since November to over 50 percent and sparking debate over whether a bubble was developing.
Currently, Shanghai-listed stocks trade at 18 times their earnings on average, which Zhang described as rational, compared with a price/earning ratio of over 60 at the height of China’s 2006-07 bull run.
ChiNext shares are trading at about 90 times companies’ earnings, but many investors expect valuations to come down quickly, betting many hi-tech companies there would grow rapidly on the back of Beijing’s support.
China stocks have rallied on hopes that the government will launch more stimulus measures and accelerate reforms to bolster flagging economic growth.
In a newly-published strategy report, brokerage Shenwan Hongyuan said that the prospects of monetary easing, state-owned enterprise reforms and the big shift of wealth from real estate to equity has greatly reduced the risk of investing in stocks.
The brokerage predicted that the SSEC may fluctuate around 3,400 points this year, and could rise to as much as 4,500 points, which is about 23 percent higher than the current level of 3,672.75.
Investors also expect China’s stock market to benefit from further capital account liberalisation this year, including allowing more foreign investors to invest in Shenzhen stocks, and broadening investment pipelines for qualified foreign institutions. (Editing by Kim Coghill)