* HSI down 0.4 pct, CSI300 down 0.5 pct
By Yimou Lee and Chen Yixin
HONG KONG/SHANGHAI, Feb 18 Hong Kong shares fell in morning trade on Monday as investors reacted to signs of softening on mainland exchanges, which reopened Monday after the Chinese Spring Festival holiday week.
The Hang Seng Index went into the midday trading break down 0.4 percent at 23,361.29 points, while the China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong fell 0.8 percent.
Chinese insurers and banks were among the top drags on the benchmark Hang Seng Index.
Jackson Wong, Tanrich Securities vice president for equity sales in Hong Kong, said that Hong Kong investors had expected a stronger opening on mainland markets.
"Prior to any major news before the power transition in March, we are going to be in the consolidation mode," Wong said.
Shares in Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) , the world's biggest bank, fell 0.7 percent, while Bank of China was down 1 percent.
Energy stocks were mostly down as the recovery in China has failed to drive up coal prices. China Coal Energy, down 7.6 percent this month, fell 2 percent, while China Shenhua Energy Co Ltd fell 1.6 percent.
Shares in China's offshore specialist CNOOC Ltd fell 0.5 percent after U.S. oil firm ConocoPhillips received approval for an oilfield in northern China, in which CNOOC has a 51 percent stake.
China Gogreen Assets Investment Ltd rose 1.3 percent after media reports it was in talks about developing solar power stations in Henan Province with an expected investment of 720 million yuan ($115.52 million).
Shares of Foxconn International Holdings Ltd fell 0.6 percent after media reports said the company planned to hire up to 40,000 workers in Chongqing after the Chinese New Year holiday.
The CSI300 index, which tracks the largest listed firms in Shanghai and Shenzhen, was down more than 0.5 percent, but the Shanghai Composite Index inched up 0.4 percent.
Zheng Weigang, analyst at Shanghai Securities in Shanghai, attributed China's mixed performance to stronger appetite for small-cap shares among mainland investors.
"After the new year, small-cap shares have a greater opportunity to rise based on yearly earnings, given they might get some policy support. But as for large-cap stocks, it's harder to say; they are still in an adjustment phase."
Our top photos from the last 24 hours.