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Nikkei Markets

Hong Kong shares bounce but coronavirus concerns linger

CK Asset and CK Hutchison jump after full-year earnings

The Hong Kong stock exchange's flag

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong shares headed higher on Friday, tracking gains in the rest of Asia, even though worries over the coronavirus pandemic remained.

The Hang Seng Index added 2.8% to 22,318.82 by noon, with U.S. equity futures also paring losses. China Mobile jumped 9.6%. The company on Thursday reported full-year earnings and signaled plans to expedite the rollout of its fifth-generation telecommunications network, looking past the immediate impact from the coronavirus outbreak.

CK Asset Holdings surged 12.4%, leading percentage gains on the index. The property developer on Thursday reported a 27.4% slump in 2019 profit, but said revenue jumped 49.4% from a year ago.

CK Hutchison Holdings jumped 6% after the ports-to-energy conglomerate reported a 2.1% increase in 2019 net profit even as revenue slipped 3%.

Most equity markets in Asia traded higher after overnight gains on Wall Street. The U.S. dollar index, measured against a basket of major currencies, was down 0.6% after rising for three consecutive days.

Even so, concerns over the impact of the coronavirus on global economic growth continued to weigh on risk sentiment. A number of cities in Europe were under lockdown after the number of fatalities in Italy surpassed those in China as of Thursday. The U.S. state of California late Thursday told residents to stay at home unless necessary.

Market participants were not convinced the rebound would be sustainable. The Hang Seng Index is still down more than 14% in March.

"It is a short-term rebound today. Hong Kong stocks are quite cheap," Jason Chan, head of research at uSMART Securities, said.

"It is too early to call it a trough," he said, adding, however, that as long as the outbreak in Europe is brought under control and there are not any obvious systemic risks or defaults, room for further losses for the Hang Seng Index will be slim.

In the mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.5%, while the yuan traded onshore climbed 0.3% against the dollar to 7.0870.

Cathay Pacific Airways added 1.7% in Hong Kong. Its unit airline HK Express on Friday said it will suspend all flight operations from March 23 to April 30 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Wireless communication equipment maker Comba Telecom Systems added 3.8% after reporting a profit of 51.8 million Hong Kong dollars ($6.7 million) for 2019, compared with a loss a year ago.

Power transmission wire maker Jiangnan Group gained 1.7% after saying it expects profit for the year ended Dec. 31 to have more than doubled from a year ago.

Hong Kong & China Gas slumped 9.1% after reporting a 25.2% plunge in 2019 profit.

Panda Green Energy Group fell 1.8% after saying it expects its consolidated loss for 2019 to widen to 3.6 billion yuan ($507.4 million) from 454 million yuan a year earlier.

-- Benny Kung

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