* HSI, H-shares -0.1 pct; CSI300 -0.9 pct
* Reported wealth product probe hits mid-sized Chinese banks
* China Life falls after clarifying chairman’s comments
* New World Development up on spinoff plan
By Clement Tan
HONG KONG, March 12 (Reuters) - China shares could post a fourth-straight daily loss on Tuesday, as mid-sized banks were dragging down the index at midday after official media reported that the country’s banking regulator has launched a nationwide probe of wealth management products.
A reversal of early gains in the mainland put Hong Kong on the defensive. The Hang Seng Index and the China Enterprises Index of the leading Chinese listings in Hong Kong each went into the midday break down 0.1 percent.
The CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings sank 0.9 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.8 percent. If the losses persist, this would be their longest losing streak since November.
Midday Shanghai volume was the heaviest since Thursday and Hong Kong midday turnover was its highest in a week.
“It’s not a good time to be doing anything major right now, everybody’s expecting the different ministries to announce specific measures from policies announced at the annual parliamentary meetings,” said Zhong Hua, a Shanghai-based strategist at Guotai Junan Securities.
In a sign this may be starting, the official China Securities Journal reported on Tuesday that the China Banking Regulatory Commission is focusing a probe on wealth management products that channel depositors’ money into a pool of assets, rather than a single account.
Such products are not transparent and could create room for illegal operations, the media report said. The article, citing unidentified sources, added that the regulator is urging banks to stop selling wealth management products that do not conform to new rules by end-April.
China Minsheng Bank sank 2.2 percent to its lowest in a week in Shanghai. In Shenzhen, Ping An Bank fell 2.8 percent, cutting its gains for the year to 37 percent.
The chairman of China Minsheng, the country’s only sizable privately-controlled bank, told reporters on Monday that China should sell down state-owned shares in mid-sized commercial banks to less than 50 percent.
China Life Insurance tumbled 2.6 percent in Hong Kong and 2.7 percent in Shanghai after clarifying late on Monday that its chairman’s comments about an improvement in profits were his opinion and should not be taken as an earnings forecast. Its Hong Kong shares were suspended on Monday.
Shares of New World Development climbed 2.1 percent after the Hong Kong property developer said it is considering a possible spin-off and separate listing of some hospitality assets.
Before Tuesday, New World shares were languishing near a December low. Gains on the day also lifted Hong Kong property rivals, with Sun Hung Kai Properties up 0.8 percent.
Chinese property and cement counters were buoyed by mainland media reports citing official data as showing that in the first two months of 2013, national cement production rose 10.8 percent from a year earlier.
This raised hopes that annual cement demand will increase for the first time in four years. The news reports also suggested that home-purchase controls will not adversely impact housing demand.
Anhui Conch Cement gained 0.8 percent in Shanghai and 0.5 percent in Hong Kong. China Vanke climbed 1.1 percent in Shenzhen, while China Overseas Land was up 0.2 percent in Hong Kong.