HONG KONG (NewsRise) -- Hong Kong shares closed little changed after a struggle for direction on Tuesday as a decline in energy producers tracking crude prices lower was countered by gains for insurance and local property companies.
The Hang Seng Index slipped less than 0.1% to 23,331.57, with the 50-stock gauge changing direction at least 10 times while it was contained within a 150-point range. The performance follows downbeat cues from U.S. trading on Monday, when stocks on Wall Street ended mildly lower while the dollar and gold prices strengthened, reflecting a defensive posture by investors as they awaited clarity on U.S. President Donald Trump's plans for fiscal stimulus.
"Investors are concentrating more on controlling risk" amid U.S. President Donald Trump's protectionist stance, said Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities. "This will keep safe havens in demand."
Yip said the day's performance also signaled investors were taking a breather after a rally last month. The Hang Seng Index is up more than 6% so far this year.
China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) slipped 1.6%, the most in six weeks, after Brent crude fell nearly 2% on Monday and traded little changed by late afternoon in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Galaxy Entertainment Group and Wynn Macau fell at least 1.8%, extending losses in the wake of slowed growth in gambling revenue for January.
New World Development rose 1.5%, leading local developers higher, amid expectations that Hong Kong property prices will hold steady despite the prospect of higher borrowing costs in the U.S. China Life Insurance climbed 2.2% to a 13-month high and New China Life Insurance added 0.9% on speculation rising Chinese bond yields will improve their earnings potential.
In mainland trading, the Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.1% and the Shenzhen Composite Index was little changed from Monday's closing levels. The onshore yuan slid 0.3% to 6.8829, while the currency traded offshore in Hong Kong slid more than 0.5% to 6.8366.
China's foreign-exchange reserves fell by a larger-than-expected $12.3 billion in January, taking the stockpile to below $3 trillion, official data released after the market close showed Tuesday.
BOE Technology Group added 0.6% in Shenzhen trading. The company said late Monday that it's bought back 226.5 million yuan ($33 million) worth of A-shares and HK$110.9 million ($14 million) of its Hong Kong dollar-denominated B-shares between Sept. 20 and Jan. 31.
PCCW rose 2.1% in Hong Kong, a day after the telecommunications major said it's agreed to sell Transvision to Three UK for 300 million pounds ($375 million).
Great Wall Motor lost 2.3% after saying its January sales rose less than 1% from a year ago. The company also said its 2016 sales rose about 31% based on preliminary, unaudited numbers. The stock is still up nearly 13% over the past month.
Geely Automobile Holdings said late Monday that its total sales volume in January rose by about 71% to 102,653 units. The stock fell 3.6%, paring its gains so far in 2017 to 33%.
China Evergrande Group added 1.7% after saying that its property sales in January amounted to 37.20 billion yuan.
Consun Pharmaceutical Group jumped 9.3% to HK$4.12 after saying it's entered into a share repurchase agreement with First Kind for 146 million shares at HK$3.837 each and announcing a special dividend of HK$0.1 per share.
Afternoon trading in Television Broadcasts was halted at the company's request pending an announcement. The stock fell 0.8% in the morning session.
The Nikkei Asia300 Index added less than 0.1% to 1,108.86.
-- V. Phani Kumar and Nimesh Vora