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HK stocks close lower on lackluster outlook
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Hong Kong stocks on Friday tracked losses on the United States markets to go lower amid cautious sentiments on the foot of weak economic data for the world's largest economy.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index opened at 23,233.90, down 389.1 points, or 1.65 percent and narrowed its losses slightly in the afternoon to close down 317.96 points, or 1.35 percent, at 23,305. 04.

The market's key barometer moved between 23,420.35 and 23,077. 51 during the session on total turnover of 73.89 billion HK dollars (9.47 billion U.S. dollars), slightly lower than Thursday's 75.43 billion HK dollars (9.67 billion U.S. dollars).

Profit taking in blue chip Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing led the bourse operator to slump 6.3 HK dollars, or 4.11 percent, to close at 146.9 HK dollars after Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock on concerns over a possible shrink of the local market.

Losses on the mainland markets also added to the pressure on the market in Hong Kong, a special administrative region in southern China and a separate economy.

Analysts said investors were waiting for cues instead of buying on the market due to concerns that fresh tightening measures on the Chinese mainland may come because inflation were running high.

The Hang Seng Index may find support at 23,000 in short term, they said.

The blue chip heavyweight HSBC Holdings closed up 0.4 HK dollars, or 0.35 percent, at 114.6 HK dollars while its local unit Hang Seng Bank edged down 0.2 HK dollars, or 0.14 percent, at 139.6 HK dollars.

China Mobile, the largest carrier on the Chinese mainland, moved down 1.1 HK dollar, or 0.94 percent, at 116.1 HK dollars and its competitor China Unicom lost a modest 0.04 HK dollars at 18.26 HK dollars.

Export shares suffered, with Yue Yuen Industrial moving down 0. 75 HK dollars, or 3.31 percent, at 21.9 HK dollars while Li and Fung tumbled 1.5 HK dollars, or 5.25 percent, to close at 27.1 HK dollars.

ICBC, one of the mainland's state-owned commercial banking giants, went down 0.03 HK dollars, or 0.58 percent, at 5.19 HK dollars and Bank of China lost 0.03 HK dollars, or 0.92 percent, at 3.23 HK dollars.

Ping An, the mainland-based insurer, closed down 1.35 HK dollars at 56.7 HK dollars and once lost even more during the session, partly because the market were not sure of its huge fund raising plan.

The properties sub-index suffered the most among the four major categories by moving down 1.96 percent at 30,179.37, followed by the commerce and industry genre, which went down 250.53 points, or 1.75 percent, to close at 14,067.53.

The finance sub-index lost 334.87 points, or 1.02 percent, at 32,447.46.

The utilities sub-index, however, bucked the trend to add 462.31 points, or 1.11 percent, at 42,225.80.

(Xinhua News Agency February 23, 2008)

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