HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong shares rose in the morning session on Thursday, helped by gains for Sunny Optical Technology Group and Geely Automobile Holdings. Trading however remained choppy on caution over escalating U.S.-China trade tensions.
The Hang Seng Index added 0.7% to reach 28,512.87 by noon after changing direction at least five times.
Sunny Optical climbed 5.8%, leading percentage gains on the gauge, after the company announced an 83% jump in June shipment volumes for handset lens sets and a 35.8% increase in handset camera module shipments compared with a year ago. Geely Automobile Holdings rose 3.8% after saying it expects to report a 50% year-over-year increase in net profit for the January-to-June period.
China Resources Land added 3.1% after reporting gross contracted sales of 28.28 billion yuan ($4.23 billion) for June. The developer had reported contracted sales of 10.08 billion yuan a year ago. Energy producers CNOOC and PetroChina slid 0.8% and 0.7% respectively after Brent crude futures plunged 6.9% overnight.
Despite Thursday's index climb, market participants remain worried about fallout from the escalating trade war. Washington earlier this week threatened to impose tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese goods. The U.S. Department of Commerce on Wednesday said it was starting a new anti-dumping investigation on imports of steel racks from China.
Ben Kwong, head of research and executive director at KGI Asia in Hong Kong, expects investors to remain cautious in the near-term. "The Hang Seng Index will be range bound between 28,000 and 29,000 points as people look ahead to whether China will launch retaliatory measures and if the yuan will stop depreciating."
Kwong recommends that investors buy utility stocks such as CLP Holdings and other Hong Kong-based companies such as CK Hutchison Holdings. CLP had added 0.9% by noon in Hong Kong while CK Hutchison slipped 0.4%.
The Shanghai Composite added 1.9%, while the Shenzhen Composite advanced 2.4%. The onshore traded yuan was down 0.2% at 6.6907 against the U.S. dollar.
Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE surged 22.1% in Hong Kong. U.S. authorities on Wednesday signed an agreement that paves the way for the Chinese company to resume doing business with American suppliers. A nearly three-month-long ban on dealings with ZTE will be lifted after it deposits $400 million into the escrow account.
NetDragon Websoft Holdings rose 2.8%. The Chinese online game developer is considering a spinoff of its education division to help the loss-making business raise funds for expansion, the company's vice chairman said in an interview.
Drug and medical equipment maker Sinopharm Group climbed 3.7% after saying it had agreed to buy 60% of China National Scientific Instruments & Materials from controlling shareholder China National Pharmaceutical Group for 5.11 billion yuan.
China Eastern Airlines rose 4.3% after reporting a 13.7% increase to 9.89 million in its number of passengers carried in June.
Information technology application services provider Sino-I Technology advanced 2.3% to 8.9 Hong Kong cents after its board declared a special dividend of 2.3 Hong Kong cents per share.
Auto parts maker Johnson Electric Holdings added 5.1% after reporting a 16% increase to $872 million in sales for the June quarter.
Alibaba Pictures Group added 2.2%. It said on Wednesday that a unit had agreed to sell online dissemination rights for a drama series for 200 million yuan to Youku Technology, another subsidiary of Alibaba Group Holding.
Cigarette packaging maker Brilliant Circle Holdings added 3.4% after saying it expects to report a "significant" increase in net profit for the January to June period.
-- Amy Lam