HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong's main stock index rose for the first time in six days on Thursday, as heavyweights Tencent Holdings and AIA Group found buying support even as Chinese companies listed in the city fell on the back of losses in mainland equity markets.
The Hang Seng Index added 0.4% to 30,451.27 after a choppy trading session during which it briefly flirted with losses. Southbound inflows over the trading links connecting Hong Kong with Shanghai and Shenzhen turned positive on Thursday, lending some support to local stocks.
AIA was the biggest contributor to the day's gains by points on the 51-stock index. The insurer advanced 1.9%, bouncing off its lowest level in more than two months. Among other heavyweights, social-media major Tencent climbed 1.3% and U.K.-based lender HSBC Holdings increased 0.6%.
The gains helped overcome selling pressure from locally listed mainland Chinese stocks, which sent the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, or HSCEI, 0.4% lower to 12,380.38, a fourth straight day of declines. Oil refiner China Petroleum & Chemical (Sinopec) lost 2.2%, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) slid 0.9% and China Life Insurance dropped 0.8%.
The Shanghai Composite Index shed 1.4%, and the CSI 300 Index of large companies listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen gave up 1%.
"It is obvious that the HSCEI is being dragged by the A-share market," said Ronald Wan, chief executive of Partners Capital International. The Hong Kong stock market will likely continue to be volatile as southbound flows from China are expected to slow down before the Chinese New Year holiday later this month, Wan said.
Shares of Leshi Internet Information & Technology gained 5.4% in Shenzhen on Thursday, snapping a losing streak after declining by the daily limit of 10% for 11 straight days. The stock has lost two-thirds of its value since it resumed trading last month after a nine-month halt.
Sentiment toward mainland equities also appeared to be hurt by a sharp fall in the yuan after a strong rally so far this year.
The onshore yuan's spot rate weakened almost 1% to 6.3254 against the U.S. dollar. The currency is still more than 2.5% stronger than it was at the end of 2017.
Government data released earlier in the day showed China's exports climbed 11.1% in January from a year ago, while the nation's imports increased 36.9%, squeezing the nation's trade surplus for the month to a lower-than-expected $20.34 billion.
Betty Wang, senior China economist at ANZ Research, said "seasonality, cold weather and higher commodity imports" pushed up imports during the month. "Despite a drop in the China-U.S. trade surplus in January, China's near-term trade outlook might still be clouded by the escalation in tensions between the two countries," she added.
Rock-drilling equipment maker Yuk Wing Group Holdings climbed 6.6% to HK$1.78 after saying that its controlling shareholder agreed to sell a 51.32% stake to Colour Shine Investments for 349.1 million Hong Kong dollars ($44.6 million). Yuk Wing said Colour Shine, which is controlled by investor He Xiaoming, will also make a mandatory conditional cash offer for the remaining shares at HK$1.79 apiece.
Footwear-retailer Vestate Group Holdings added 0.8% after it agreed to sell four properties, including its head office in Hong Kong, for a total HK$150 million.
China Metal Resources Utilization increased 0.8% after it agreed to acquire copper-products maker Value Link Developments for HK$741.2 million in a cash-and-stock deal.
-- Carrie Chen and Amy Lam