4 Min Read
* HSI +0.9 pct, H-shares +1.4 pct, CSI300 +0.5 pct
* China export data trumps expectations, lifts markets
* Chalco soars 8 pct, leads strength in beta plays
* HK property stronger ahead of housing secretary address
By Clement Tan
HONG KONG, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares hit a new 19-month high on Thursday, with gains picking up in growth-sensitive counters after China's December trade data trumped expectations, prodding benchmark indexes back towards overbought levels.
Mainland Chinese markets also climbed after data showed China's exports grew 14.1 percent last month compared with a year earlier, easily beating a Reuters poll forecast of 4 percent and the 2.9 percent growth seen in November.
The Hang Seng Index went into the midday trading break up 0.9 percent at 23,419.5, surpassing its previous high posted last Thursday. Chart resistance is next seen at around 23,707, the highs on June 1, 2011.
The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong gained 1.4 percent, outshining the Shanghai Composite Index and the CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen A-shares, which each rose 0.5 percent.
"The China trade data was an obvious trigger for gains today, which are still driven by fresh buying," said Jackson Wong, Tanrich Securities' vice-president for equity sales.
The bullish trade data had followed tepid December money supply and loan growth data released before markets in Hong Kong and China opened for the day.
In Hong Kong, Chinese shippers and materials counters were among the biggest percentage gainers. Aluminum Corporation of China surged 8.1 percent to a 10-month high, while China Shipping Development spiked 6.6 percent.
Shares of Baoshan Iron & Steel (Baosteel) gained 1.8 percent in Shanghai after it posted 2012 net profit that rose about 40 percent to 10.3 billion yuan ($1.65 billion), spurring gains for the sector.
China's iron ore imports surpassed 70 million tonnes for the first time in December, driving full-year imports to a record level, customs figures showed on Thursday, boosted by restocking in the world's top buyer.
Hong Kong property stocks were stronger ahead of an expected address by the Chinese territory's housing secretary after markets close on Thursday. New World Development jumped 4.5 percent, while Cheung Kong Holdings gained 1.8 percent.
Chinese airlines were also buoyed by a Citi upgrade of the sector, based on an expected improvement in earnings as domestic air traffic continued to recover in December, and some recovery on routes to and from Japan after a plunge follwing the Diaoyu island dispute between China and Japan.
Air China climbed 5.5 percent after Citi added the stock to its Pan Asia focus list and raised its target price by 28 percent, expecting the industry leader to benefit from a recovery in domestic traffic, especially in the Beijing market. Air China's Shanghai listings rose 0.9 percent.
China Eastern Airlines soared 8.2 percent after Citi analysts upgraded their rating from "neutral" to "buy" and raised their target price for its Hong Kong listing by 36 percent, expecting CEA to be the largest beneficiary if the Japan market recovers. Its Shanghai listing climbed 2.7 percent.