December 31, 2018 / 5:05 AM / 4 months ago

Hong Kong stocks gain over 1 pct in shortened session; drop nearly 14 pct in 2018

* HSI, HSCE both add 1.3 pct; gains seen across sectors

* Local market is down for the month, quarter and year

* Sentiment high on signs of Sino-U.S. trade talk progress

* Technology sector climbs after approval for online games

HONG KONG, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares climbed over 1 percent on Monday, closing an otherwise bearish 2018 on a firm note, on the back of optimism about Sino-U.S. trade relations, and gains in technology stocks. ** The Hang Seng index rose 1.3 percent to 25,845.70, while the Hang Seng China Enterprises index gained 1.3 percent. The market is closed in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve. ** The Hang Seng lost 13.6 percent of its value this year, the worst decline since 2011. The market tracked the sorry state of the Chinese stock market in 2018, whose blue-chip index was the worst performer in Asia. H-shares also shed 13.5 percent in 2018. ** The Hang Seng recorded a 2.5 percent fall in December, and lost almost 7 percent this quarter, while H-shares accumulated losses of 4.7 percent in December and 8.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. ** Gains were seen across the board on Monday. The sub-index tracking the financial sector ended the session 1.4 percent higher, the property sector rose 1.3 percent, while energy stocks added 1.5 percent, due to firmer oil prices. ** U.S-China trade relations look amicable ahead of the New Year. Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping talked over the phone on Sunday, and expressed willingness to strike a trade deal afterwards. The two leaders called a 90-day ceasefire in the trade war at the start of the month. ** The Hang Seng’s sub index for the I.T. hardware makers , which were caught in the trade war crossfire earlier this year, ended the session up 1.7 percent. ** The phone call between Trump and Xi was the main driver behind Hong Kong stocks’ performance on Monday, said Ben Kwong, head of research at KGI Asia, adding that: “The market expects more progress in the U.S.-China trade talks. That, and the festive atmosphere, pushed the main (Hang Seng) index higher in today’s half-day trading.” ** The sub index tracking the information technology sector climbed 1.2 percent, thanks to a rally in shares of Tencent Holdings, the most actively traded stock in Hong Kong. ** Tencent climbed after China approved the release of 80 new video games on Saturday, ending a freeze on games for much of 2018. The news helped Tencent’s shares gain even though the company’s games were not in the approval list. ** “I think 80 is a relatively small number, but it marks a change in policy,” said Steven Leung, director of sales at brokerage UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong. “There will probably be more approvals, gradually coming out, at the start of next year.” ** Chinese economic growth, another driver for Hong Kong equities, continues to look lacklustre. In December, the country’s factory activity contracted for the first time in more than two years, but services activity picked up after a two-month slowdown, according to official data released on Monday morning. ** The top gainer on the Hang Seng was Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd, which gained 6.4 percent. ** The top gainers among H-shares were China Tower Corp Ltd , up 3.5 percent, followed by China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, gaining 3.3 percent, and CRRC Corp Ltd , up 2.4 percent. ** The short and one-factor leveraged Hang Seng index, which is designed to replicate the payoff of a short or leveraged portfolio and is linked to the movements of the Hang Seng Index, was lower by 1.3 percent on the day at 5,358.44 points. (Reporting by Noah Sin; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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