* SSEC -0.9 pct, CSI300 -0.8 pct, HSI -1.0 pct
* Energy shares in China, HK drop after oil price plunge
* Yuan weakness also weighs on sentiment
SHANGHAI, March 9 Benchmark stock indexes in
China and Hong Kong fell on Thursday as a plunge in oil prices
weighed on energy sector shares, and as global investors turned
cautious ahead of a widely expected hike in U.S. interest rates
Renewed weakness in the yuan currency also dampened
confidence, though China's state banks stepped into the market
to keep the currency from falling too fast.
China's blue-chip CSI300 index fell 0.8 percent to
3,422.98 points by the lunch break, while the Shanghai Composite
Index lost 0.9 percent to 3,213.16.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index dropped 1.0 percent
to 23,549.11, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index
lost 1.4 percent to 10,139.89.
Shares fell across the board in China and Hong Kong, with
the energy sector leading the decline in
both markets, after crude prices plunged over 5 percent
overnight on a spike in U.S. oil stockpiles.
The yuan was poised to fall against the dollar
for the third straight day, touching the lowest level in almost
two months as the dollar strengthens on U.S. rate hike views.
Weaker-than-expected consumer inflation data out of China
also added to the nervous mood, though producer price inflation
raced to a near nine-year high, suggesting higher profits for
firms ranging from miners and steel mills to oil refiners.
China's producer price index (PPP) unexpectedly jumped 7.8
percent in February from a year earlier, while consumer
inflation slowed to 0.8 percent due to lower food prices,
marking its slowest pace since January 2015.
"The lower-than-expected CPI data means overall demand
remains weak, and the (economic) recovery is fragile," said Shen
Weizheng, Shanghai-based fund manager at Ivy Capital.
He believes that a robust rally in China shares since
mid-January is likely coming to an end.
Trade date on Wednesday showed China's February exports
unexpectedly fell, but import growth was much stronger than
expected, though economists cautioned the figures were likely
distorted by the timing of the long Lunar New Year holiday.
Dutch asset manager Robeco said it remains bullish on
Chinese equities this year, saying the economic recovery is
being driven by improving fundamentals.
But Hong Kong shares will perform better than their mainland
peers due to strong southbound investment flows and their
relatively attractive valuations, the asset manager said.
(By Samuel Shen and John Ruwitch; Editing by Kim Coghill)