* HSI flat, H-shares -0.4 pct, CSI300 -1.2 pct
* Profit-taking hits Chinese banks ahead of econ data
* Macau casinos sink after MGM China stake sale
* Kweichow Moutai at highest in nearly 2 weeks
By Clement Tan
HONG KONG, March 7 (Reuters) - Weakness in Chinese banks halted a two-day rebound in Hong Kong shares on Thursday, as investors took profit on the sector which had led previous gains, and rotated into laggards ahead of key U.S. and China data on Friday.
Losses in mainland Chinese markets accelerated in the afternoon after comments from the Shanghai Stock Exchange chairman stoked fears that initial public offerings could resume and pump more supply into the A-share market.
The CSI300 of the leading Shanghai and Shenzhen listings shed 1.2 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index fell 1 percent. They are down 1.8 and 1.5 percent, respectively, this week.
The Hang Seng Index, flat on the day, is down 0.5 percent on the week. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong was down 0.4 off on Thursday and 0.3 percent this week.
Shanghai volume stayed robust and above average, but Hong Kong turnover sank below its average over the last 20 days for the first time in more than a week.
“There’s some profit-taking today after the rebound in the last two days,” said Jackson Wong, Tanrich Securities’ vice-president for equity sales. “We have been in this consolidation phase for more than two weeks now, so we are due a break up or down soon.”
Investors rotated out of Chinese banks on Thursday ahead of a slew of February Chinese data starting with trade on Friday. Data for inflation, urban investment, industrial output and retail sales is due on Saturday, with monthly money supply and loan growth data expected from Sunday.
Mid-sized lender China Merchants Bank lost 2.5 percent in Shanghai and 0.9 percent in Hong Kong. Shenzhen-listed Ping An Bank, which on Wednesday had its highest close in nearly three years, fell 2 percent.
The Macau gambling sector came under pressure after a term sheet showed an unidentified investor is selling 25.36 million shares in MGM China that were marketed at between HK$16.99 and HK$17.20, up to a 3.8 percent discount from its Wednesday close.
MGM China slid 3.4 percent to HK$17.06, while peers SJM Holdings dived 3.6 percent and Galaxy Entertainment fell 3 percent.
Shares of global supply chain manager Li & Fung jumped 3.6 percent after a private survey showed U.S. private-sector hiring was surprisingly strong in February. That came ahead of the U.S. government’s closely watched non-farm payrolls report, due on Friday.
Chinese shippers were also broadly stronger. China Shipping Development rose 1.4 percent in Hong Kong, while China Cosco climbed 2.1 percent in Hong Kong and 1.2 percent in Shanghai.
China’s annual parliamentary meetings continued to move markets. Chinese premium alcohol producers bucked broader weakness after a delegate from Guizhou province was reported to have said a cut in public spending won’t impact growth in the industry. Liquor is often offered as gifts in China.
Kweichow Moutai, based in Guizhou, surged 3.8 percent to its highest in almost two weeks. Wuliangye gained 1.5 percent in Shenzhen. The sector has been hurt by calls by China’s incoming leaders for combating corruption.
On Thursday, losses in the mainland accelerated after Gui Minjie, chairman of China’s larger stock exchange, said that the recent dearth of initial public offerings did not amount to a deliberate halt in the approval process, but was part of an attempt to slow the supply of stock.
The official Shanghai Securities News reported on its website that Gui also said the country’s securities regulator was currently reviewing some applications.
The exchange chief also said that the Shanghai Stock Exchange is planning to launch equity options for blue-chip stocks this year, in a bid to provide more hedging tools for institutional investors.
Separately, securities regulators had said late on Wednesday that China will loosen restrictions on investment by foreigners of offshore yuan into onshore capital markets. Investors will be permitted to buy individual stocks and bonds, rather than just index funds.
Despite Thursday’s losses, signs are emerging that domestic Chinese retail investors are returning to onshore markets. New Chinese stock market accounts are at their highest in a year, a sharp rebound from December, local media reported.
A revival in the A-share market, which now has 78 million retail investors, could boost interest in Chinese brokerage stocks, which have struggled recently.