* CSI300 +0.6 pct; SSEC +0.8 pct; HSI +0.2 pct
* Market now expects IPO reform to be delayed
* Hong Kong has priced in a lot of bad news - analyst
SHANGHAI, March 7 (Reuters) - China stocks looked on track for their fifth straight day of gains on Monday, led by small-caps, after a flurry of reassurances by the country’s top leaders that the economy would remain on sound footing despite strains from major reforms.
Hong Kong shares also had a positive start to the week, aided by an upbeat mood across Asia, following Friday gains in U.S. and European markets, and a continued rebound in oil and commodity prices.
China’s blue-chip CSI300 index rose 0.6 percent to 3,112.26 points by lunch break, while the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.8 percent to 2,896.55 points.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was up 0.2 percent, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index rose 1.4 percent.
“Hong Kong has priced in a lot of bad news, yet Shanghai less so. But in short-term trading, moods matter more than reality,” wrote Hong Hao, managing director of research at BOCOM International.
“With a strong rebound in commodities, the mood is shifting, and will likely stretch the rebound - till the reality of falling growth sets back in.”
The opening of China’s annual parliament meeting in Beijing at the weekend delivered few surprises to investors, but was peppered by comments from leading officials seeking to calm worries about the slowing economy, the threat of large-scale layoffs amid industrial restructuring and record declines in the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
Beijing has set a growth target of 6.5 percent to 7 percent for this year, which Reuters had reported earlier. Its fiscal deficit target of 3 percent of GDP was lower than many had anticipated, although it is up from the previous year’s goal of 2.3 percent.
However, investors now see little risk of a drastic slowdown in growth, after China’s top economic planner said on Sunday that the economy will “absolutely not” experience hard landing.
In addition, expectations are rising that planned reforms in the initial public offering (IPO) system could be delayed. The market had feared that the reform could start as early as this month, threatening to boost share supply.
“Many people now believe the IPO reform will not happen this year because not a word about it was mentioned during the government’s development plans at the NPC meeting,” said Wang Qing, analyst at Yuantai Securities.
Such a belief boosted prices of China’s relatively expensive small-caps, which are more vulnerable to the reform than modestly valued blue-chips.
China’s start-up board ChiNext jumped over 3 percent on Monday morning, recovering much of Friday’s sharp losses, also fuelled by Beijing’s new five-year development plan, which envisions China being a tech power.
In Hong Kong, most sectors rose, with energy and materials shares leading the gains, on the back of a sustained rebound in oil and commodity prices.
Reporting by Samuel Shen and Nathaniel Taplin; Editing by Kim Coghill