Hong Kong shares edge up, led by retailers; mainland down
* HSI up 0.3 pct, CSI300 down 0.2 pct
By Yimou Lee
HONG KONG/SHANGHAI, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares rose slightly on Wednesday, with retailers gaining ground after strong results from cosmetics firm Sa Sa International Holdings Ltd.
Gains for overseas stock markets on an improving global economic outlook, in particular a stronger-than-expected rise in German investor sentiment, also helped buoy the market.
The blue chip Hang Seng Index gained 0.3 percent to 23,201.92 by the midday break. The index has largely traded between 23,100 and 23,400 after marking its highest level in nearly two years in early February.
The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong rose 0.5 percent.
Shares in Sa Sa surged 5.5 percent to a record high after the firm posted 30 percent year-on-year growth in its retail sales in Hong Kong and Macau during the Feb. 10-16 Chinese New Year and 20 percent growth in same store sales.
"The strong performance (from Sa Sa) suggested that consumer sentiment was improving and that fuelled investors' interest to put a bet on those which can benefit from the improved spending sentiment of mainland tourists," Steve Chow, analyst at Sunwah Kingsway Group Research.
Shares of Bonjour Holdings Ltd, a smaller rival of Sa Sa, rose 3.1 percent to their highest level since Jan. 31. China's largest footwear retailer Belle International rose 1.7 percent.
Steven Leung, sales director at UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong, said investors were waiting for indications of Beijing's policy direction and for signs of recovery in upcoming earning reports.
"People are still concerned about whether the recent consolidation by the market has run its course or not," Leung said, adding that Chinese banks and insurers could outperform as they had underperformed other sectors.
The Hang Seng Financial Index has fallen 2.8 percent so far in February, compared to a 2.2 percent loss in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.
Mainland markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen softened for a third straight day, but the decline was milder than Wednesday's, when the markets lost nearly 2 percent. The CSI300 index was down 0.2 percent at midday while the Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.05 percent.
China's real estate sector remained weak amid concerns over fresh policy curbs, but the falls were milder than in previous sessions after Standard & Poor's revised the outlook on China's residential property sector to stable from negative and said it didn't expect Beijing to drastically tighten or loosen its controls over the industry this year.
In Hong Kong, China Resources Land lost 0.7 percent, while China Overseas Land fell 1.4 percent. China Vanke, China's largest property developer by sales, rose 0.5 percent in Shenzhen.
Macau gambling stocks fell for the second consecutive day after the city's gambling revenue for February fell short of expectations.
Sands China Ltd fell 1.1 percent, while Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd dove 2.3 percent. Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd plunged 5.7 percent, its worst daily loss since July 2012.
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