HONG KONG, March 1 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares could start March higher on Thursday, with gains on the benchmark index seen capped at about 21,680 ahead of China’s February PMI, expected at a five-month high and due for release soon after markets open.
Beijing is expected to post China’s official February PMI, a measure of manufacturing activity in the world’s second-largest economy, which may have edged up to 50.7 in February, a five-month high, up from 50.5 in January, a Reuters poll showed.
Citic Pacific Ltd and Hui Xian Real Estate Investment Trust, are among firms releasing corporate earnings on Thursday, with Sun Art Retail Group and Sands China to follow on Friday.
On Wednesday, the China Enterprises Index of the top mainland listings in Hong Kong rose 0.6 percent. The broader Hang Seng Index ended up 0.5 percent at 21,680.1, again shy of 21,725.6, the top of a gap that opened up between Aug. 4 and 5.
Short selling accounted for 7.2 percent of total turnover on Wednesday, down from 8.6 percent on Tuesday. Turnover in Hong Kong exceeded its 20-day moving average for the first time in about a week.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei was up 1.3 percent at 9,848.3 points, while the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 1.3 percent at 2,030.3 points at 0047 GMT.
* Macau’s largest casino operator, SJM Holdings, controlled by the family of local gaming tycoon Stanley Ho, posted a 49 percent rise in 2011 net profit. Net profit hit a record at HK$5.31 billion ($685 million) compared with HK$3.56 billion a year earlier, the gaming giant said in a Wednesday statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange. This slightly lagged an average forecast of HK$5.48 billion from 20 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
* Concrete Win Ltd, the controlling shareholder of Chinese property developer Country Garden Holdings, and Merrill Lynch International have launched a share sale worth up to $400 million, IFR reported on Wednesday.
* Trader Glencore has agreed to buy zinc concentrates from Peruvian miner Volcan without charging for processing, taking the view that it will be able to more than recoup the charges by profiting from rises in zinc prices, industry sources said.
* British bank HSBC is close to a $1 billion sale of its general insurance operations to AXA and QBE, Sky News reported on Wednesday.
* China’s Citic Resources said it had appointed a new chairman, Ju Weimin, 48, on Wednesday after the resignation of Mi Zengxin, 60, who started as an executive director of the resources firm in 2004 before working his way up to the role of chairman.
* Lawyers for Apple Inc. argued for its right to use the iPad trademark in China on Wednesday, as a higher court began a crucial hearing that could result in sales of the wildly popular tablet computer being halted throughout the Chinese mainland. The Higher People’s Court of Guangzhou is hearing an appeal by the U.S. firm after a lower court ruled in favour of debt-laden Chinese tech company Proview Technology (Shenzhen), a unit of Proview International, which says it owns the trademark in China.
* China Huadian Corp, parent of Huadian Power , has inked a framework agreement with Hunan to tap shale gas resources in the southern province, as the state-owned power generating firm was stepping up efforts to look for new opportunities beyond its traditional thermal power business.
* China’s Baoshan Iron & Steel Co Ltd (Baosteel) said on Wednesday that it will sell loss-making stainless steel and special steel assets to parent Baosteel Group, netting it a 9.58 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) gain. (Reporting by Clement Tan and Donny Kwok; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)