* HSI -0.4 pct, H-shares -0.5 pct, CSI300 +0.5 pct
* Beta plays down as twin China PMI diverges again
* China agricultural stocks lifted by policy signals
* Wynn Macau hit by parent’s earnings disappointment
By Clement Tan
HONG KONG, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares extended a retreat from a 21-month high on Friday, dragged down by growth-sensitive stocks after an official survey of manufacturing activity in China disappointed expectations.
The onshore Chinese market recovered from early losses in choppy trading, as agricultural-related sectors were bolstered by a series of policy announcements, including rural land reforms to promote large-scale commercial farming.
The CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings went into the midday trading break up 0.5 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index was flat. For the week, they are up 5 percent and 4.1 percent respectively.
The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong fell 0.5 percent, while the Hang Seng Index was down 0.4 percent at 23,624.5, slipping further from Wednesday’s 21-month closing high. They remained up 0.6 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, on the week.
Both markets had started the day weaker after the official purchasing managers index (PMI) eased to 50.4 for January, below December’s 50.6 reading and below forecasts for a nine-month high of 50.9. But, another private survey released by HSBC showed growth quickening to a two-year high in January.
But both surveys showed factory output in the world’s second-largest economy rose in January, though the starkly different speeds suggest a patchy revival in activity.
“Data this month may have been skewed by some methodology issues, but if you look at the HSBC reading, which is more skewed to smaller enterprises, it actually suggests the uptrend is intact,” said Hong Hao, chief strategist at Bank of Communication International Securities.
“From my communication with fund managers, the greater dilemma is deciding how to deploy the increasing amount of money coming their way after such a big run up,” Hong said. “That is raising concern that we are due a correction soon.”
On Friday, highly growth-sensitive sectors such as materials and shipping weakened. Steel conglomerate Citic Pacific shed 1.6 percent in Hong Kong, while Aluminum Corporation of China (Chalco) lost 1.3 percent in Hong Kong and 1.4 percent in Shanghai.
China property stocks were mixed, with some falling despite a report in the official China Securities Journal newspaper that a pilot programme to implement a property tax in Beijing has been postponed.
China Vanke rose 0.6 percent in Shenzhen, but its smaller rival Poly Real Estate slipped 0.5 percent in Shanghai. China Overseas Land shed 2.9 percent in Hong Kong.
Wynn Macau fell 2.3 percent after its parent group Wynn Resorts Ltd WYNN.O posted on Thursday underwhelming quarterly earnings that were blamed on its declining share of the Macau gaming market.
Most of its Macau gaming sector rivals were broadly higher ahead of monthly gaming revenue data. Sands China was up 0.5 percent, while SJM Holdings was up 2.1 percent.
Data released at the midday trading break showed Macau gambling revenue rising 7.3 percent in January from a year before, weaker than a 10-12 percent growth consensus forecast.
Strength in agricultural-related plays were lifted by Beijing’s focus on modernizing the sector in its “number one document” for 2013. The “number one document” is a key indicator of policy priorities and has focused on rural matters every year since 2003.
For 2013, Beijing said it would grant more subsidies to large-scale landholders, family farms and rural cooperatives as it tries to provide more incentives to bring economies of scale to the fragmented countryside.
Heilongjiang Agriculture rose 2.3 percent in Shanghai, with a sub-index of agriculture stocks listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen outperforming the broader A-share market, up 1.2 percent.