Feb 15 (Reuters) - Hong Kong stocks hit a five-month high on Wednesday, after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s comments on the U.S. economy and rising interest rate hike expectations sent Wall Street to record highs.
The benchmark Hang Seng index climbed to the highest since Sept. 9 in intraday trading and settled 1.2 percent up, at 23,994.87 points. The Hong Kong China Enterprises Index closed at the highest since Nov. 2015, up 1.8 percent, to 10,436.04 points.
Yellen said on Tuesday that the Fed will probably need to raise interest rates at an upcoming meeting, and that delaying rate increases could leave the Fed’s policymaking committee behind the curve.
Some analysts see a hike at the next Fed policy meeting, in March.
Alex Wong, Hong Kong-based director of Ample Finance Group, said higher rates would benefit banks, while hurting profitability of real estate plays due to higher borrowing costs.
Financial stocks rose 1.9 percent at the close to an 18-month high. Hong Kong tracks U.S. interest rates closely due to a currency peg to the greenback.
Sustained southbound inflows through the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect also lent some support. Mainland investors used 2.7 billion yuan ($393.1 million) on Wednesday, or 25.6 percent of the daily quota, compared with an average of less than 11 percent in January. Wong expects the trend to continue.
$1 = 6.8691 Chinese yuan Reporting by Jackie Cai and John Ruwitch; Editing by Sam Holmes