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Equities

Hong Kong shares post biggest decline in nearly two weeks

Property developers fall; Chinese stocks gain as mainland markets reopen

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong shares retreated on Thursday, taking cues from weak global equities on worries about the outlook for U.S. interest rates. Mainland Chinese stocks jumped in a catch-up rally as markets reopened after the week-long Chinese New Year holiday.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index fell 1.5% to 30,965.68, its steepest single-day percentage loss since Feb. 9. Heavyweights HSBC Holdings and Tencent Holdings, which have the highest weighting on the 51-member gauge, gave up 2.5% and 0.5%, respectively. China Resources Land shed 4.1% and China Overseas Land & Investment gave up 3.1%, the day's biggest decliners on the index in percentage terms.

China Construction Bank (CCB) slid 2% and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) lost 2.3% to lead mainland financial shares traded in Hong Kong lower. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index shed 1.3%. The decline came even as Chinese investors bought Hong Kong stocks worth more than 5 billion Hong Kong dollars ($639 million) over the trading links connecting the city with Shanghai and Shenzhen.

"The A-share market reopened today, but the southbound inflow needs time to pick up in turnover as some mainland investors have yet to return from Chinese New Year holidays," said Will Leung, head of investment strategy at the wealth management unit of Standard Chartered Hong Kong.

The performance in Hong Kong provided a contrast with mainland Chinese markets, where trading resumed after a seven-day break. The Shanghai Composite Index jumped 2.2%, while its Shenzhen counterpart rose 1.9%. The yuan traded onshore weakened 0.2% to 6.3590 against the U.S. dollar.

Shares of technology major Leshi Internet Information & Technology rose by the day's 10% limit in Shenzhen on Thursday. The company, responding to recent media reports, said in a statement to the Shenzhen stock exchange that it has no intention of restructuring the company.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index of large regional companies fell 0.9% after U.S. stocks slid overnight on concern that interest rates might rise faster than many traders anticipated.

Meanwhile, shares of Bank of East Asia climbed 0.3% in Hong Kong. During Thursday's midday break, the lender said its 2017 net profit surged nearly 80% from the previous year, helped by a cost-cutting program and improved asset quality.

Apparel maker Bossini International Holdings climbed 1.3%, trimming losses this month to 3.7%. The apparel maker on Wednesday said it swung to a net loss in the six months ended Dec. 31 from a profit in the year-ago period.

Camera maker Sky Light Holdings tumbled 9.8% after saying it expects a loss of more than HK$447 million for 2017, compared with a profit of about HK$53.7 million in 2016.

Chinese property developer Weiye Holdings lost 2.6% amid broad market losses, even as it said that its 2017 net profit was expected to increase by more than 70% from a year earlier.

-- Amy Lam and Carrie Chen

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