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HK stocks close sharply higher
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Hong Kong stocks surged 852.13 points, or 3.68 percent, to closed at 24,021.68 on Thursday as investors were encouraged by Wall Street's gains overnight after retail sales rose unexpectedly in January.

The Hang Seng Index closed at 24,021.68 after touching a high of 24,140.29. The index has now gained a cumulative 6.2 percent in an uninterrupted three-day rally this week.

Turnover was 94.30 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Analysts said that the U.S. retail data was much better than expected. Also, overall sentiment in both U.S. and Hong Kong seems to have stabilized in the past few sessions, with both markets advancing

China COSCO Holdings Ltd, the world's largest dry bulk shipping company, rallied 2.10 HK dollars or 10.1 percent to close at 23.00 HK dollars.

China Shipping Development Co surged 10 percent to 23.15 HK dollars after the company secured a better-than-expected 40 percent increase in its domestic coal shipping tariff for 2008.

Fashion retailer Esprit, which sells to Europe and the US, advanced 4.50 HK dollars or 4.8 percent to 98.35 dollars on favorable US data.

Hong Kong property firms continued to rise on expectations of another interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve in March. Sun Hung Kai Properties rose three percent to 142 HK dollars, extending its rise since Tuesday to 5.8 percent. Cheung Kong jumped 3.5 percent to 120 HK dollars.

Bank of East Asia rose 5.1 percent to 42.95 HK dollars ahead of its 2007 earnings report due Friday. The lender, the first local bank to issue its financial results for last year, is expected to report a 19 percent increase in 2007 net profit to 4.09 billion HK dollars

CLP, one of Hong Kong's two power providers, was the only blue chip to fall Thursday, dropping 0.9 percent to 61 HK dollars, after Citigroup downgraded the stock to sell from hold. Century Premium Developments surged 25 percent to 2.83 HK dollars after its parent, PCCW, said it plans a 338 million U.S. dollars offer for the shares it does not already own in the property firm.

(Xinhua News Agency February 15, 2008)

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