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Nikkei Markets

Hong Kong stocks end flat as trade worries resurface

Telecom shares advance amid expectations for faster 5G commercialization

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong stocks ended little changed after a choppy trading day amid renewed U.S.-China trade concerns, with some market heavyweights and energy producers retreating while telecommunications companies advanced.

The Hang Seng Index inched up 0.01% to 27,008.20 after changing direction a few times. Internet services major Tencent Holdings fell 0.8%, extending losses after its online games were found missing from a third list of titles that received an approval from mainland authorities this week, while pan-Asia life insurer AIA Group shed 0.5%. CNOOC dropped 2.5% and PetroChina slid 1.2% after U.S. crude oil prices sank 2.3% on Tuesday.

Chinese telecom companies advanced, with China Mobile adding 1.2% and China Unicom increasing 4.3%, while telecom infrastructure provider China Tower jumped 5%. The Ministry of Industry & Information Technology said this week that there is a solid foundation to quicken the pace to commercialize 5G telecom technology for high-speed internet services.

Major indexes on Wall Street retreated 1.2% or more on Tuesday as U.S. markets reopened after a long weekend, following data showing a slowdown in China's economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2018, and the International Monetary Fund's lowered outlook for global growth. Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department said it will pursue the extradition of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of China's Huawei Technologies who was arrested in Canada in December.

"The market is not too worried over the IMF report, but is more worried about the relations between the U.S. and China" amid efforts to extradite Meng, said Andy Wong, chief investment strategist at Harris Fraser (International). Investors were buying telecom shares on expectations for more measures from the government to expedite 5G commercialization, he added.

In the mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index also gained less than 0.1%, while the yuan traded onshore strengthened 0.3% to 6.7849 against the dollar.

Meanwhile, shares of China Shenhua Energy advanced 1.9% in Hong Kong following a 6.3% increase in December coal sales volume to 43.8 million tons.

Trading in the shares of Jiayuan International Group will remain on a trading halt until further notice, a stock exchange notice said on Wednesday, hours after the Hong Kong-listed property developer said it had applied for trading to be resumed. In a filing to the exchange earlier on Wednesday, Jiayuan confirmed there was a forced sale of some 93.62 million shares held by Chairman Shum Tin Ching on Jan. 17, when the stock had crashed more than 80%.

Sunshine 100 China Holdings, another mainland developer listed in the city, slumped 9.2%. The stock was among a clutch of small-cap shares that had also slumped on Jan. 17. The drop on Wednesday came even as Sunshine 100's Chairman Yi Xiaodi told investors on a call on Tuesday that the company had bought back its own shares worth more than HK$50 million, and could keep up the repurchases.

China Yurun Food Group surged 28.9% after the company said it had received a notice that Honorary Chairman and single-largest shareholder Zhu Yicai, who had been under house arrest in China since 2015, has returned home.

Zhongyu Gas Holdings rose 2.9%, after saying that it has agreed to acquire two gas companies in China for 462.2 million yuan ($68.1 million).

-- Carrie Chen

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