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Nikkei Markets

Tech and telecom stocks drag Hong Kong shares lower

China Mobile slides after 2018 results while Tencent down ahead of earnings

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong shares gave up early gains to end lower on Thursday, weighed down by losses for technology and telecom heavyweights, even as the U.S. Federal Reserve indicated it would not raise interest rates in 2019.

The Hang Seng Index fell 0.9% to 29,071.56 after rising as high as 29,446.77 earlier. China Mobile declined 4.8%, the biggest contributor to losses on the gauge, after reporting a 0.5% decline in 2018 revenue and a 3.1% increase in profit. Tencent Holdings, the most valuable company listed in Hong Kong, fell 1.9% ahead of its 2018 results, due after the market close on Thursday.

Henderson Land Development added 2.4% after reporting a 1.1% increase in 2018 net profit.

CK Infrastructure Holdings declined 3.3% even as its profit for 2018 rose 2% from a year ago. Power Assets Holdings, its affiliate, slipped 1.5% following an 8.2% decrease in 2018 net profit. Group companies CK Asset Holdings and CK Hutchison Holdings dropped 0.4% and 1.1%, respectively, ahead of their results Thursday.

The U.S. central bank on Wednesday stood pat on interest rates, as was widely expected, and signaled it will not raise them in 2019. The Fed raised rates four times last year and had earlier indicated more increases would come, a possibility that had made investors in the region nervous. U.S. equity indexes ended mixed overnight. The Nikkei Asia300 Index was up 0.x%, with most markets in Asia trading higher.

The Hang Seng Index is more likely to correct now, as its valuation has exceeded "fair" levels, entering "optimistic territory," said Andy Wong, chief investment strategist at Harris Fraser (International). The Fed's indication of no more rate increases this year was expected, he added.

The Hang Seng Index has risen more than 12% so far in 2019 as concerns of rising U.S. borrowing costs have faded and hopes for a resolution of the trade dispute between the U.S. and China have increased.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are due to meet Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Beijing next week for further trade talks.

Wong said optimism over the outcome of trade negotiations between the U.S. and China is already priced into the Hang Seng Index. "With the negotiation period getting longer, chances of a less sanguine outcome are raising the risk of correction," he added.

In the mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.4%, while the yuan traded onshore was little changed against the dollar.

New China Life Insurance jumped 7.7% in Hong Kong following a 47.2% surge in 2018 net profit and a 6.2% increase in revenue.

Hong Kong & China Gas added 2% after reporting a 13.2% increase in 2018 net profit.

Wuxi Biologics slid 3.3% to HK$78.15. The company said its controlling shareholder had offered to sell 52 million existing shares at HK$77 each, a 4.8% discount to Wednesday's closing price.

Sany Heavy Equipment International Holdings gained 1.2% after reporting a more than doubling of its 2018 net profit.

Auto parts maker Minth Group skidded 7.7% after reporting an 18% drop in 2018 profit.

Chinese selfie-app maker Meitu jumped 4.6% despite reporting a widening of its loss and a drop in revenue last year.

-- Amy Lam

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