China shares sink to a 7-week low, Hong Kong down too

Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:09am GMT

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* HSI -1.1 pct, H-shares -2 pct, CSI300 -1.8 pct

* China property curbs to stay, raising fears of no policy change

* A/H premium index nearly back at parity after H-share losses

* Railway, infrastructure sectors among hardest hit

By Clement Tan

HONG KONG, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Onshore Chinese shares slid to a seven-week low and weighed on Hong Kong stocks on Tuesday after state media reported that housing market curbs will remain, raising fears that the ongoing party congress will spawn little change in economic policies.

Several news outlets reported that China's housing minister told reporters on Monday on the sidelines of the 18th Communist Party congress meeting, which ends on Wednesday, that he does not expect any loosening of the sector's restrictions.

Turnover in Hong Kong rose more than 13 percent from Monday, but was still some 8 percent below the 30-day average. Traders said festering uncertainty over the U.S. fiscal situation and further aid to debt-stricken Greece kept many investors on the sidelines.

The Hang Seng Index ended down 1.1 percent at 21,188.7. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong dived 2 percent. Tuesday's losses took both indices to their lowest closes since mid-October.

In the mainland, the CSI300 Index of the largest Shanghai and Shenzhen listings sank 1.8 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.5 percent. Both indices ended at their lowest since late September.

Investors are taking the continuation of housing curbs "as perhaps a sign there won't be any loosening or changes in Beijing's economic policy positions in the near term," said Hong Hao, chief equity strategist at Bank of Communications International Securities.

"A lot of the money that has come into offshore Chinese equities in the last nine weeks has gone into the cyclical names, betting on stronger growth from policy changes, but I think they will be disappointed," Hong added.

The China Enterprises Index, or the H-share index, has shed 5.6 percent from a Nov. 2 high. It had surged 14 percent in September and October, ranking among the top performing indices in those two months.

Since Nov. 2, there's been a 4.1 percent loss on the CSI300 Index and a 3.3 percent slide on the Shanghai Composite.

The H-share underperformance has moved the Hang Seng Index A/H premium index back to near parity.

It is now at 99.9, the highest since Oct. 17 after having traded below 100 for more than three weeks. This suggests the premium that onshore markets typically trade over offshore peers could return if H-shares continue to underperform A-shares.

Shares of Chinese oil giants were put on the defensive due to falling oil prices.

Chinese media reported on Tuesday that Beijing could cut gasoline and diesel prices in the mainland for a fourth time this year, perhaps as soon as Wednesday.

In Hong Kong, China Petroleum and Chemical (Sinopec) Corp lost 3 percent, while CNOOC shed 0.9 percent and Petrochina fell 1.9 percent.

CHINA POLICY FEARS DRIVE LOSSES

On Tuesday, growth-sensitive sectors whose performance is seen linked to the Chinese property sector suffered the brunt of the losses after the state-run China Daily newspaper reported the country's housing minister as also saying that Beijing is "actively studying" expanding property tax beyond Chongqing and Shanghai.

While these statements did not offer anything new, they compounded jitters that no policy changes will emerge from this meeting that marks the formal start of a once-in-a-decade political transition. The new Politburo Standing Committee lineup is expected to be announced on Thursday.

Chinese railway and infrastructure-related counters, which led a rally in September and October, trimmed 2012 gains. China Railway Group dived 6.2 percent from Monday's near 19-month high in Hong Kong. It is still up 69 percent this year.

Zoomlion Heavy Industry shed 3.4 percent in Hong Kong and 1.3 percent in Shenzhen. Zoomlion was among the top performers among Chinese growth-sensitive names in Hong Kong, and surged more than 25 percent in September and October.

The Shanghai property sub-index was down 2.1 percent on Tuesday, with Poly Real Estate off 1.4 percent. Shenzhen-listed China Vanke shed 2.2 percent.

In Hong Kong, China Resources Land lost 1.5 percent, trimming its 2012 gains to 45 percent.

Official data for October housing prices is expected on Sunday. But in a sign of things to come, the state-run China Securities Journal, citing data from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics, reported that the capital's property sales in the first 10 months of 2012 surpassed full-year sales in 2011.

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