March 15, 2017 / 4:56 AM / a year ago

China stocks flat; HK down ahead of Fed decision

* SSEC 0.1 pct, CSI300 0.1 pct, HSI -0.1 pct

* Premier Li’s press conference offer little surprises

* Energy stocks in HK fall on weaker oil prices

SHANGHAI, March 15 (Reuters) - China stocks were roughly flat on Wednesday morning, with investors eagerly awaiting cues for direction as they closely monitor Premier Li Keqiang’s press conference at the end of China’s annual parliamentary meeting.

Hong Kong stocks slipped slightly, as energy shares continued to slide on lower oil prices, while investors waited to see if the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates as expected later in the global day.

Both China’s blue-chip CSI300 index and the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.1 percent by the lunch break, to 3,460.75 points and 3,241.97 points, respectively.

The indexes have fluctuated in a narrow range over the past month, with the market propped up by signs of economic strength, but doubts linger over whether the recovery, bolstered mainly by government stimulus, is sustainable.

“China’s economy had pretty good performance in January and February. March data will be crucial as investors are anxious for any hint on whether the recovery is sustainable,” said Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities Ltd.

Linus added that Premier Li’s press conference as the National People’s Congress meeting drew to a close contained few surprises.

Li said that China’s economy faces domestic and external risks this year, but added the country has many policy tools to cope with them. He said fears of a hard landing for the economy should be dismissed, but said meeting the 6.5 percent growth target won’tbe easy.

Sector performance was mixed in China, with transportation and material shares rising, while real estate and banking shares lost ground.


In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index dropped 0.1 percent, to 23,815.03 points, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index lost 0.2 percent, to 10,299.76.

The energy sector lost 0.6 percent, as oil prices continue to sag amid supply glut fears.

Analysts say the market has priced in the overwhelming probability that the Fed will raise its short-term interest rate later in the day at the end of a two-day meeting of its policy-setting committee.

Samuel Shen and John Ruwtich; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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