Hong Kong shares close mixed on China bank reform plan
HONG KONG, March 9 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares finished mixed on Monday after the Chinese securities regulator said that banks may be able to enter the brokerage business.
Despite the bank-led rally that left both major mainland bourses up over 1.5 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended slightly lower.
"The news benefited mainland banks as they could expand their territory," said Sam Chi Yung, a strategist at Delta Asia Financial Group in Hong Kong.
"But for banks in Hong Kong, I don't think it will make noises as local banks already have such businesses."
The Hang Seng index fell 0.2 percent to 24,123.05 points, while the China Enterprises Index gained 0.6 percent to 11,675.92.
Offsetting the positive news for banking shares were sobering China import numbers released over the weekend, which added to concerns the mainland economy may be rapidly losing steam.
Combined imports for January and February fell 20.2 percent from the same period a year earlier, though exports rose 15 percent.
Some of the decline is almost certainly a product of falling oil prices, which are down by around 50 percent since mid-2014. Nonetheless, in the context of rapidly declining producer prices and weak industrial growth, falling imports are another worrisome sign for the economy and policymakers in Bejing.
Total trading volume of companies included in the HSI index was 1.6 billion shares.
(Reporting by Winni Zhou and Nathaniel Taplin; Editing by Kim Coghill)
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