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Nikkei Markets

Hong Kong stocks move sideways as trade optimism lingers

Sunac drops after share placement, while WuXi slides as shareholder trims stake

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong equities wavered between gains and losses in the morning session on Friday, with investors looking ahead to a formal Sino-American trade deal expected to be signed next week amid growing confidence that geopolitical tensions in the Middle-East will not escalate.

The 50-stock Hang Seng Index gained less than 0.1% to 28,576.92 by noon, after changing directions a few times and dropping as low as 28,504.27 earlier in the day. Internet services major Tencent Holdings climbed 1.8% and casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group added 1.8%. Sunny Optical Technology Group advanced 1.4% after the smartphone components maker released December data, which showed its volume shipments of handset lens surged almost 68% from a year earlier.

CNOOC dropped 1.8% and PetroChina gave up 2.9%, following an extended decline for crude oil prices.

Investors appeared to be reassured by lasting signs of de-escalation in the trade war between the world's two largest economies. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will reportedly be traveling to Washington next week to sign the first phase of the pact on Jan. 15. Easing U.S.-Iran tensions also provided some relief as participants viewed the absence of any casualties following Iran's attack this week on American forces in Iraq as a positive sign.

"I think the market now has less worries" as the odds of military escalation seem to have declined, said Tracy Chan, an analyst at KGI Asia. Liu He's trip to the U.S. for the trade agreement was perhaps not fully priced in, and the Hang Seng Index has a shot at 30,000 during the first quarter of 2020, Chan said.

In mainland China, meanwhile, the Shanghai Composite Index retreated 0.3%, while the yuan traded onshore was little changed against the U.S. dollar at 6.9325.

Shares of Sunac China Holdings tumbled 4.3% to HK$44.65 after the property developer said it will raise around 8 billion Hong Kong dollars ($1.03 billion) in gross proceeds from a share placement at HK$42.80. The placing is intended to expand the company's equity base and "optimize" its capital structure, Sunac said.

WuXi Biologics tumbled 5% to HK$98.05 after a controlling shareholder agreed to sell 60.8 million shares, representing 4.69% of the company's share capital, at HK$96.05 each.

China Education Group gained 2.5% after the private education provider said rumors that the group was seeking to dispose assets or spin off its business were "completely false and unfounded." The stock has risen 5.7% so far this week.

Hong Kong Television Network jumped 7.3% after setting a gross merchandise value (GMV) target of HK$3.38 billion for this year, up from HK$2.78 billion in GMV orders it took in last year for the group's e-commerce business.

Livzon Pharmaceutical Group rose 2.6% after saying it expects preliminary net profit for 2019 to have increased by between 20% and 30%.

-- Benny Kung

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