February 12, 2020 / 8:59 AM / 7 days ago

Hong Kong stocks firm as virus fears ease

* Hang Seng up 0.9%, H-shares add 0.7%

* HK shares track Chinese, regional markets

* Expert says epidemic could end by April

* New cases in mainland China drop to 2-week low

HONG KONG, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares rose on Wednesday as a slowdown in the rate of new coronavirus infections in mainland China eased some concerns about the economic impact from the epidemic. ** At the close of trade, the Hang Seng index was up 0.9% at 27,823.66. The Hang Seng China Enterprises index rose 0.7%. ** The sub-index of the Hang Seng tracking energy shares rose 0.9%, the IT sector gained 1.1%, the financial sector ended 0.9% higher and the property sector rose 0.6%. ** The top gainer on the Hang Seng was Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd, which gained 4.4%, while the biggest loser was Hengan International Group Company Ltd, which fell 0.6%. ** New confirmed cases in mainland China - at 2,015 on Tuesday - fell to their lowest in almost two weeks, the National Health Commission said on Wednesday. New cases in the Hubei province, the epicentre of the virus, also hit the lowest since Jan. 31 . ** The drop in new cases lent credence to a prediction by Beijing’s senior medical adviser, Zhong Nanshan, that the outbreak is hitting a peak in China this month and may end by April.

** China’s main Shanghai Composite index and the blue-chip CSI300 index also rose as worries about the coronavirus eased, marking their seventh session of gains. ** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 0.7%. Japan’s Nikkei index closed up 0.7%. ** The yuan was 0.1% weaker at 6.976 per dollar by 0811 GMT. ** About 1.8 billion Hang Seng index shares were traded, compared with almost 1.9 billion shares in the previous session. ** At close, China’s A-shares were trading at a premium of 23.72% over Hong Kong-listed H-shares. ** The short and one-factor leveraged Hang Seng index, which is designed to replicate the payoff of a short or leveraged portfolio and is linked to the movements of the Hang Seng Index, was lower by 0.86% at 4,787.18 points.

Reporting by Noah Sin; Editing by Aditya Soni

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