HONG KONG, Nov 8 Hong Kong shares could start lower on Thursday, tracking steep losses on Wall Street as investors shift their focus to the looming "fiscal cliff" that confronts the U.S. economy and to Europe's economic problems. The Dow industrials lost more than 300 points in a sell-off on Wednesday that drove all major U.S. stock indexes down more than 2 percent in the wake of the presidential election. China formally commences its once-in-a-decade political transition when the 18th Communist Party Congress meeting starts later in the day, where the country's fifth generation of leaders will be appointed and could shed more light on its likely policy direction. Chinese PC maker Lenovo and Macau casino Sands China are among companies expected to report third-quarter earnings later in the day. On Wednesday, the Hang Seng Index closed up 0.7 percent at 22,099.9 in its strongest turnover of the week, creeping back towards its 2012 closing high of 22,111.3 recorded last Friday. Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei was down 1 percent, while South Korea's KOSPI was down 0.5 percent at 0048 GMT. FACTORS TO WATCH: * HSBC is nearing the sale of more than $6 billion of U.S. mortgages and other personal lending as part of its accelerated run-down of its troubled U.S. loans book. * China will launch a campaign to shut down small and illegal mines in a bid to improve safety and efficiency in the sector, the government said on Wednesday. The clampdown could cause a temporary fall in domestic supplies and boost its reliance on imports. * China's plan to buy base metals for state reserves in an effort to cushion domestic smelters from slowing economic growth would support prices but would not significantly reduce bulging stockpiles, traders and analysts said on Wednesday. * Hong Kong sold two plots of land for residential use on Wednesday for a total of HK$5.4 billion ($697 million), stepping up supply in the latest move to cool the city's housing prices, which are among the highest in the world. Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd and Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd confirmed they had each bought a site. * Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group said on Wednesday the company's flagship Hon Hai unit is finding it difficult to cope with the massive demand for Apple Inc's iPhones. However, its chairman declined to comment on brokerage reports saying that the group's other unit, Foxconn International Holdings (FIH), had taken on some production. * Melco Crown Entertainment posted a 4 percent drop in third-quarter revenue due to lower volume in Macau's lucrative VIP market that depends on high-stake gamblers. * China Taiping Insurance Holdings Co Ltd said it plans to issue U.S. dollar denominated notes, raising capital for general corporate purposes. It also said its parent China Taiping Insurance Group is contemplating a restructuring and may inject its assets into the company. In another statement, the Chinese insurer also reported that its unaudited accumulated premium income of its life insurance business rose to 29.7 billion yuan for January-October period a year ago from 26.5 billion yuan.and* Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd said investors ENB Lux 1 S.àr.l and ENB Lux 2 S.àr.l, special purpose vehicles owned by funds advised by Permira, have agreed to the sale of all their 249.6 million shares or 5.94 percent stake in the company through a private placement on Nov. 7 with completion expected to be on Nov. 12.(Reporting by Clement Tan and Donny Kwok; Editing by Chris Gallagher)
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