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HK stocks end lower in spite of rate cuts
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Hong Kong stock market opened higher Thursday on announcement of expected rate cuts but failed to hold on as concerns over the U.S. economic future surfaced again in the afternoon.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index opened at 23,789.72, up 136.03 points or 0.58 percent, after the Hong Kong Monetary Authority followed the Federal Reserve to announce a half percentage point rate cut.

But the index soon turned to move downward before closing at 23, 455.74, down 197.95 points or 0.84 percent. It moved between 23, 887.17 and 23,052.95 during the volatile session on a turnover of 110.65 billion HK dollars (14.19 billion U.S. dollars).

The performance of the key barometer was currently below the 250-day moving average of 23,592, the mark that has usually been called a bull/bear threshold in spite of disagreements from some analysts.

It also meant that the Hang Seng Index lost a total of 4,536.91 points, or 15.67 percent during the volatile month of January.

The two rate cuts by the United States Federal Reserve in the past week were nothing beyond expectations of the market, analysts said, adding that volatility was expected in the near term.

Some have also been toning down their forecast for the next quarters.

Sixteen of the 43 blue chips on the Hong Kong market turned out gainers, outnumbered by the number of losers, which totaled 26.

PCCW, the local telecommunications operator and a blue chip, remained flat.

The heavyweight banking giant HSBC Holdings lost 1.5 HK dollars, or 1.28 percent, to close at 115.6 HK dollars, while its local unit Hang Seng Bank lost 2.7 HK dollars, or 1.73 percent, to end at 153.2 HK dollars.

China Mobile, the mainland's largest mobile carrier, went up 0.7 HK dollars, or 0.62 percent, to close at 114.3 HK dollars.

The finance sub-index suffered the most among the four major categories, moving down 702.18 points, or 2.13 percent, at 32,327.08, followed by the properties genre, which closed at 33,618.07, down 229.58 points or 0.68 percent.

Bank of China continued its losing run at 3.17 HK dollars, down 0.1 HK dollars or 3.06 percent while BOC Hong Kong gained 0.26 HK dollars, or 1.37 percent, following rate cuts by the local Monetary Authority.

Ping An, one of the Chinese mainland's major insurance players, slumped 3.2 HK dollars, or 5.58 percent, to close at 54.2 HK dollars while China Life lost 1 HK dollar, or 3.45 percent, to end at 28 HK dollars.

The commerce and industries sub-index was slightly higher at 13, 935.19, up 20.37 points, or 0.15 percent while the utilities category outperformed the market by gaining 389.32 points, or 0.94 percent, partly thanks to increasing energy consumption in a wintry season across China.

Hong Kong Electric went up 0.3 HK dollars, or 0.68 percent, to close at 44.45 HK dollars while Hong Kong and China Gas added 0.55 HK dollars, or 2.65 percent, to close at 21.3 HK dollars.

China Shenhua, however, went down 1.35 HK dollars, or 3.27 percent, at 40 HK dollars.

Mainland shipping giant China Cosco gained 1.9 HK dollars, or 12.03 percent, at 17.7 HK dollars, thanks to the strength of an important industry index.

(Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2008)

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