HONG KONG (NewsRise) -- Hong Kong shares headed for a five-month high on Wednesday as mainland Chinese lenders rallied after a jump in the loans they made last month and as Wall Street notched another record close after Janet Yellen's comments.
The Hang Seng Index rose 1.3% to 24,002.57. The gauge has not closed above 24,000 since September. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and China Construction Bank (CCB) climbed at least 2.6% to drive large lenders higher. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index added 1.8%, the most since November.
Data released after Tuesday's market close showed China's aggregate financing climbed to a record 3.74 trillion yuan ($545 billion) in January and new yuan loans reportedly rose to the second highest level on record. The data eased concern over the fallout from the People's Bank of China's recent decision to raise short- and-medium-term loans while leaving policy interest rates unchanged.
Heavyweight HSBC Holdings advanced 1.4%, poised for its highest level since August 2015, after U.S. financial stocks gained overnight to push equity indexes on Wall Street to another record finish. Federal Reserve Chair Yellen told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday it would be "unwise" to wait too long to increase interest rates amid rising inflation and a strengthening economy.
China's lending data "sort of comes as a relief, that the pace of tightening by China's central banks this year is expected to be selective and not as broad based as investors had feared," said Ronald Wan, chief executive at Partners Capital International. "Investor expectations for a rise in U.S. interest rates have increased after Yellen's speech and this will help global financials like HSBC Holdings."
Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing increased 1.9% amid rising trading volumes on the city's stock exchange. Turnover on the bourse's main board topped HK$56 billion ($7.2 billion) by Wednesday noon.
The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.3%, while the yuan traded onshore was little changed at 6.8630 to a dollar. The Nikkei Asia300 Index jumped 0.9% to 1,123.53.
Shares of Apple supplier AAC Technologies Holdings rose 3.5%, extending gains after the iPhone maker advanced further on Tuesday in the U.S.
BOE Technology Group added 1.3% in Shenzhen after Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter, that the U.S. smartphone maker is in talks with the company to supply next-generation displays for future iPhones.
China Petroleum & Chemical (Sinopec) added 0.3%. China raised both gasoline retail and diesel fuel prices by 50 yuan per ton each from Wednesday, according to the announcement by the National Development and Reform Commission.
Semiconductor Manufacturing International fell 3.2% after the company on Tuesday reported a decline in fourth-quarter net income versus the third quarter.
Alibaba Group Holding fell 1.5% in U.S. trading Tuesday. Temasek Holdings cut its stake in the internet major by 10.3% to 35.5 million American Depository Shares. Mattel, maker of Barbie dolls, said separately it will partner Alibaba to develop new products for Chinese consumers and sell its products in China on the company's Tmall.com marketplace.
-- V. Phani Kumar and Nimesh Vora