China shares outperform Asia, financials buoy Hong Kong gains

Mon Dec 24, 2012 4:52am GMT

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* HSI +0.2 pct, H-shares +0.4 pct, CSI300 +0.7 pct

* HK shut at noon for holiday, will resume trading on Thursday

* China financials jump, hopes of more investment from pension funds

* Moutai tumbles after Beijing booze ban

By Clement Tan

HONG KONG, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Mainland China shares outshone other Asian markets on Monday, helped by strength in financials after state-run media reported of more fund allocation by the country's social security funds and raised expectations of additional investment in the sector.

The CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings went into the midday trading recess up 0.7 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5 percent.

Strength in A-shares buoyed Hong Kong, which shut at midday for the Christmas holiday and will only resume trading on Thursday. The Hang Seng Index climbed 0.2 percent and the China Enterprises Index gained 0.4 percent.

"People are expecting money to roll into Chinese banking and other financial A-shares. It's the first sector people generally expect government-related funds to look at," said Jackson Wong, Tanrich Securities' vice-president for equity sales.

The official China Securities Journal newspaper reported that the National Social Security Fund has distributed funds to fund managers who have successfully applied to manage the increased fund allocation.

The same report also said the Guangdong provincial social security authority has completed allocating 100 billion yuan ($16.05 billion) for investment in the last three months.

China Merchants Bank was among the top boosts to the CSI300, rising 3.9 percent to its highest since May.

China Merchant is now up more than 23 percent in December in Shanghai, set for its best monthly performance in 3-1/2 years. Despite still being some way from peaks in February this year, the stock is now 4.1 percent higher in 2012, set for its first annual gain in three years.

In Hong Kong, China Merchant climbed 1.2 percent, and is now up 11.2 percent in December and 5.1 percent on the year.

Much of the rally in the Chinese banking sector this month has come after China's insurance regulator abolished limits for insurance firms' investments in the country's banks.

Previously, firms were unable to invest in more than two banks if they owned more than 5 percent of any single bank.

Among the mainland's "Big Four" banks, Agricultural Bank of China (AgBank) rose 0.7 percent in Shanghai and climbed 0.8 percent in Hong Kong, also helped by positive headlines out of an annual agricultural work conference in Beijing over the weekend.

Beijing pledged to better protect farmers' rights to their land, while boosting incomes and public services in rural areas to narrow the rural-urban divide in the world's second-largest economy, state-run media reported.

MOUTAI SLAMMED AFTER CHINA BOOZE BAN

While Chinese banks rallied in December, alcohol stocks extended their November downward spiral.

Kweichow Moutai led a tumble in the country's alcohol sector on Monday after Beijing banned its top brass from hosting boozy banquets while working, Communist Party chief Xi Jinping's latest anti-corruption move.

Shares in Moutai, whose premium white spirits are much favoured by the Chinese military, fell 4.7 percent in Shanghai at midday, unwinding modest December gains.

The ban, announced in state media on Saturday, also bars senior military officials from staying in luxury hotels while on business, and comes after Xi made similar demands as he takes aim at the long, discursive meetings and extravagant welcoming ceremonies that mark official life in China.

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