February 5, 2018 / 9:51 AM / 6 months ago

China stocks defy global downtrend, Hong Kong cuts losses on strong inflows

* SSEC +0.7 pct, CSI300 +0.1 pct, HSI -1.1 pct

* Shanghai->HK daily quota used 71.9 pct, highest in 3 years

* Investors continue to shun ChiNext shares

By Samuel Shen and John Ruwitch

SHANGHAI, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Chinese shares bucked the region’s tumble on Monday sparked by a slide on Wall Street, as investors scooped up blue chips such as banks, while a surge of funds to Hong Kong from the mainland helped the city’s stock index pare earlier losses.

Cross-border money flows to Hong Kong from Shanghai via the Connect pipeline hit their highest in nearly three years, in a flurry of bargain hunting by Chinese investors.

Mainland investors also piled into battered big-caps listed in Shanghai, reversing losses in the main indexes, as they shunned small-caps increasingly plagued by margin calls, huge earnings losses and a deepening liquidity crunch due to the government’s clampdown on shadow banking.

The Shanghai Composite index, which opened 1.5 percent lower, ended the session up 0.73 percent at 3,487.38, while the blue-chip CSI300 Index also reversed losses, closing up 0.1 percent.

Highlighting diverging fortunes, the SSE 50 Index, which tracks China’s 50 biggest stocks, rose 1 percent, while the start-up board ChiNext fell 0.8 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index recovered sharply at the close, down just 1.1 percent, aided by a flood of Chinese money after opening 2.7 percent lower, knocked down by the turmoil on Wall Street amid inflation fears.

The reversal of fortune was more notable in an index tracking Hong Kong-listed Chinese firms. The Hong Kong China Enterprise Index tumbled 3 percent at open, but ended the session merely 0.4 percent lower.

“Today’s performance shows the Hong Kong market is starting to get disjointed from Wall Street, which used to call the shots,” said Pan Jiang, CEO of asset manager Shanghai V-Investment Co Ltd.

“Chinese money will keep gushing into Hong Kong, and its pricing power will grow day by day.”

Although the Hang Seng is near its record peak, valuation of Hong Kong-listed blue-chips such as banks are still low from a global perspective, making them attractive to “smart” money from China, Pan said.

On Monday, a net 7.6 billion yuan ($1.21 billion) of Chinese money flowed into Hong Kong via the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, the highest volume since April 8, 2015.

Buying has been concentrated in Hong Kong-listed Chinese lenders, such as CITIC Bank and China Everbright Bank Co.

Ma Xixun, executive director at asset manger PinPoint, said he expects the Hong Kong market to remain in a “slow bull” trend, while performance divergence among big- and small-caps in China will strengthen.

$1 = 6.2926 Chinese yuan Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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