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Stocks

Hong Kong stocks flat after Trump tax plan unveiled

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong shares were little changed Thursday morning as declines in casino shares and mainland companies offset advances by AIA Group after the insurer reported a surge in new business.

The Hang Seng index was 0.01% down at 24,575.01 at noon after a three-day rising streak. Sands China lost 3.3% after its first-quarter profit rose 11.9%, according to an earnings statement from its U.S.-listed parent, missing the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Reuters. A gauge of mainland companies listed in Hong Kong gave up 0.6% and the Shanghai Composite headed for a three-month low amid concern Chinese authorities would continue to pursue policies aimed at reining in financial risks by preventing excessive speculation in the equity and real estate markets.

AIA Group advanced 4.7%, poised for its best session since October 2015, after it reported that new business jumped 55% in the first quarter. Ping An Insurance Group added 0.9% ahead of its quarterly earnings due Thursday.

The morning performance reflected caution after stocks on Wall Street fell Wednesday in the wake of the unveiling of a tax plan by U.S. President Donald Trump. While the proposals include a plan to more than halve the corporate tax rate to 15%, the one-page draft offered few details on how that would be achieved.

The decline in mainland stocks Thursday came after a senior official at China's top economic planner reportedly said that home prices would likely rebound if government curbs were relaxed.

"There is very little confidence in the China markets currently," said Francis Lun, chief executive officer at Geo Securities. "We have repeatedly seen efforts and comments by authorities to crack down on leverage and insulate the economy from excessive speculation in property and equity markets."

The decline in mainland equities came even as data released earlier Thursday showed industrial profits climbed 23.8% in March. The yuan traded onshore slipped to 6.8950 against the U.S. dollar. The Nikkei Asia300 Index was little changed at 1,189.74 after four days of advances.

China National Nuclear Power rose 1.2% in Shanghai after reporting a 20% increase in first-quarter net profit.

Gree Electric Appliances slipped 1% in Shenzhen trading, trimming its advance this year to 34%. The company reported a 23.5% increase in net profit for 2016.

Leshi Internet Information & Technology late Wednesday reported an 8.8% increase in its first-quarter net profit. The company's shares in Shenzhen have been under suspension since April 17 pending an announcement related to an asset restructuring.

Standard Chartered jumped 3.9% in Hong Kong after the lender's first-quarter profit before tax almost doubled to $990 million.

Automaker Minth Group, among the morning's most heavily traded stocks in Hong Kong, slumped almost 11%. The company said Thursday that Chin Jong Hwa will return as chairman and CEO from Sept. 1, replacing incumbent Shi Jian Hui.

China Minsheng Financial Holding dropped 8.6%. The reason for the drop wasn't immediately known.

China Southern Airlines dipped 1.5%. The airline signed a deal for 20 aircraft from Airbus with a list value of nearly $6 billion. The stock is still up 29% this year.

-- Nimesh Vora and V. Phani Kumar

-- Nikkei Markets is a real-time financial news service for South East Asia's markets published by Nikkei NewsRise Asia Pte Ltd, a Nikkei and NewsRise joint venture company. Nikkei Markets provides wide companies coverage in the region, including the Nikkei's Asia300 companies.

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