Hong Kong shares may start weaker, China property in focus
HONG KONG, March 4
HONG KONG, March 4 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares could start weaker on Monday, with the Chinese property sector in focus after Beijing announced more tightening measures in a bid to contain housing costs on the eve of the country's annual parliamentary meetings.
China could increase required down payments and loan rates for buyers of second homes in cities where prices are rising too quickly, the State Council said on Friday.
The annual Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference began on Sunday and the National People's Congress, where Xi Jinping is expected to be confirmed as president, starts in Beijing on Tuesday.
HSBC Holdings and Hang Seng Bank are among companies due to post final 2012 corporate earnings later in the day.
Last Friday, the Hang Seng Index shed 0.6 percent to 22,880.2, paring this week's rise to 0.4 percent. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings shed 0.8 percent on the day, but inched up 0.2 percent this week.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei was up 1.1 percent, while South Korea's KOSPI was flat at 0037 GMT.
FACTORS TO WATCH:
* China is set to use swelling offshore holdings of its tightly-managed currency worth around 1 trillion yuan ($160 billion) to justify a landmark shift in tactics to relax capital control.
* China is likely to set up a single watchdog for food safety and pharmaceuticals, streamlining a complex regulatory system that has seen a series of scandals over food contamination and fake medicines, the South China Morning Post said on Monday.
* HSBC and Standard Chartered will report a reduction in their bonus pools, reflecting separate settlements with U.S. authorities over probes into money laundering and sanctions violations, Sky News reported on Sunday.
* Las Vegas Sands Corp, parent of Sands China Ltd said it "likely" violated the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which outlaws the bribery of foreign officials, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday.
* Chrysler and Chinese automaker Guangzhou Automobile Group joint venture GAC-Fiat aims to produce over 100,000 new Jeep models in China by as early as 2014, in a move that is key to Fiat's goal of selling 300,000 vehicles annually in China by next year.
* Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd is likely to launch monthly metals contracts as part of a plan to boost business with mainland China and justify its $2.2 billion purchase of the London Metal Exchange, senior metals industry executives and traders said on Friday.
* Chinese oil giant CNOOC Ltd has agreed to changes to its oil-drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico to quell U.S. national security concerns as a condition for U.S. approval of its $15 billion buyout of Canada's Nexen Inc .
* A series of territorial disputes with its neighbours will ensure China boosts defence spending when it reveals this year's military budget ahead of the annual parliamentary sitting next week, security experts say.
* China Merchants Bank Co Ltd said on Friday that preliminary profit for 2012 was up 25.3 percent, according to a company release on the Shanghai Stock Exchange website.
* Mid-sized lender China Minsheng Banking Corp Ltd is set to launch an up to $3.2 billion convertible bond as soon as March 15, IFR reported on Friday, citing sources with direct knowledge of the plans.
* Air China Ltd will buy 31 aircraft from Boeing Company to expand its fleet capacity, the firm said in an announcement filed with the Hong Kong stock exchange on Friday.
* Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd will buy three Boeing 747-8 freighters, the company said in an announcement filed with the Hong Kong stock exchange on Friday.
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