* HSI +0.6 pct, CEI +1.4 pct; CSI300 +3.8 pct,
* Bank, property rises on macro outlook, policy news
* China air pollution boosts energy and health care
* Li & Fung falls 15 pct on weak earnings
By Gabriel Wildau
SHANGHAI, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Property and financial shares led gains in Hong Kong and mainland China markets on Monday following stronger-than-expected Chinese trade data last week and a preliminary report of strong earnings growth at a mid-sized lender.
China’s blue-chip CSI300 gained 3.8 percent after at one point hitting its highest level since June, while the Shanghai Composite Index rose 3.1 percent and closed above the psychologically important 2,300 level at 2,312 points.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed 0.7 percent higher, despite a 15 percent tumble in global exporter Li & Fung Ltd after a profit warning. The China Enterprise Index of top Chinese firms listed in Hong Kong outperformed, rising 1.4 percent after touching its highest level since August 2011.
China trade data on Thursday showed exports rose 14 percent in December year-on-year, far above expectations of 4 percent. That raised investor hopes that demand from the U.S. and Europe will support China’s economic recovery this year.
“The strong export data makes people think the worst of the European recession is already past,” said Chen Yi, equity analyst at Xiangcai Securities in Shanghai.
Financial stocks were also buoyed by a preliminary earnings statement released by Industrial Bank after the market close on Friday, showing net profit rose 36 percent in 2012, far above expectations. That raised hopes that other lenders will also report strong earnings.
Banking shares gained strongly in both Hong Kong and Shanghai, with HSBC climbing 1 percent. Insurer China Life was up 2.9 percent in Hong Kong and 5.0 percent in Shanghai, and ICBC was up 0.9 percent in Hong Kong and 2.1 percent in Shanghai.
“Banking stocks are seen as quite strong as investors put bets on the sector on hopes of good growth in earnings on the improving economic environment, in particular tracking a solid gain in the Shanghai market,” said Alfred Chan, chief dealer at Cheer Pearl Investment.
Another feature of the mainland markets were gains made by healthcare stocks and some large-cap energy stocks after air quality in Beijing dramatically worsened and the city’s pollution monitoring centre warned residents to stay indoors. Other northern Chinese cities were also affected.
The air pollution in north China over the weekend boosted energy shares, as investors bet that policies aimed at curbing pollution would lead big, listed companies to profit at the expense of smaller players that could be harder hit by new regulations.
China Shenhua Energy rose 1.3 percent, while PetroChina rose 1.7 percent.
The healthcare sub-index gained 2.8 percent as consumers are expected to look for ways to protect themselves.
The mainland property sub-index rose 3.4 percent, while financials were up 3.6 percent.
Also affecting real estate shares was comments from a senior official in China’s State Administration of Taxation, reported in mainland media, that China is likely to delay the expansion of its property tax pilot project to more cities beyond Shanghai and Chongqing.
The Ministry of Land Resources said it would continue to ensure sufficient land supply to prevent against big rises in land prices that could feed through to home prices. That boosted real estate shares by easing investor fears that spiraling land costs would hit developers’ bottom line.
Comments by China’s securities regulator that authorities could increase the size of the quotas through which foreign investors can access the market by 10 times also boosted sentiment, though the comments did not include a timeline for any such increase.
Despite a strong tone in the main index, companies that posted profit warnings were under heavy pressure.
Global supply chain manager Li & Fung tumbled to its lowest level in three months after it warned of a steep drop in core operating profit, taking investors by surprise and triggering concern over its ability to reach a three-year earnings target.
China’s largest polysilicon and wafer maker, GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd, fell 4.3 percent after the company announced that it expected to record a substantial loss in 2012 due to anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed by the U.S., and impairment and provisions against inventory and production facilities.
Shares of Citic Telecom International Holdings Ltd surged 13 percent after striking a $1.2 billion deal to gain control of a Macau telecommunications company from Cable & Wireless Communications Plc and Portugal Telecom SGPS SA .