January 3, 2020 / 8:40 AM / 7 months ago

Hong Kong stocks reverse gains on Middle East tensions

* HK->Shanghai Connect daily quota used 4%, Shanghai->HK daily quota used 3.9%

* HSI -0.3%, HSCE -0.6%, CSI300 -0.2%

* FTSE China A50 -0.5%

Jan 3 (Reuters) - Hong Kong stocks reversed gains to end lower on Friday, as investors worried about heightening geopolitical tensions in the Middle East after a U.S. air strike at Baghdad airport killed a top Iranian commander.

But stocks on the island managed to the wrap up the first week of the new decade higher with a five-week winning streak, thanks to an accommodative stance by China’s central bank and a thaw in Sino-U.S. trade tensions.

** The Hang Seng index fell 0.3%, to 28,451.50, after climbing as much as 1.2% to a six-month high, while the China Enterprises Index lost 0.6%, to 11,253.55.

** For the week, HSI increased 0.8%, while HSCE moved up 0.5%, both up for the past five weeks in a row.

** Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force and top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed early on Friday in a U.S. air strike on their convoy, the Pentagon and Iran said.

** The tensions in the Middle East after the U.S. air strike was the main reason that knocked Hong Kong stocks off from a six-month high on Friday, Ample Finance Group analyst Alex Wong said.

** Besides, market participants also tended to pocket gains after a recent rally, Wong added.

** The benchmark Hang Seng index had advanced 7% in the last month of 2019 amid signs of progress in Sino-U.S. trade talks.

** Investors were expecting a signing of a Phase 1 trade deal between China and the U.S. on Jan. 15.

** Beijing’s latest stimulative measures also added to support for the market.

** China’s central bank said on Wednesday it was cutting the amount of cash that all banks must hold as reserves, releasing around 800 billion yuan ($114.76 billion) in funds to shore up the slowing economy.

** Reuters reported on Friday that China has decided to keep its inflation target unchanged this year at around 3%, suggesting policymakers will continue to roll out economic stimulus gradually and avoid more aggressive measures.

** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was weaker by 0.18%, while Japan’s Nikkei index was down 0.76%.

** The yuan was quoted at 6.9733 per U.S. dollar, 0.13% weaker than the previous close of 6.9643.

** As of 08:08 GMT, China’s A-shares were trading at a premium of 26.62% over the Hong Kong-listed H-shares. (Reporting by the Luoyan Liu and Brenda Goh; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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