[HONG KONG] Chinese stocks trading in Hong Kong fell for the first time in three days amid concern the slowing economy is hurting earnings after PetroChina Co. reported a plunge in profits.
PetroChina, the nation's largest company, slid 4 per cent to lead declines for oil shares after saying profits slumped 82 per cent in the first quarter. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. declined 2.8 per cent. Gree Electric Appliances Inc. of Zhuhai soared 10 percent in mainland trading after posting a jump in new income and offering bonus shares to investors.
The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index lost 0.3 per cent to 14,703.48 at 9:57 am, while the Hang Seng Index declined 0.2 per cent. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6 per cent after swinging between gains and losses at least four times.
"The market will become more volatile as the index gets higher," said Jimmy Zuo, a Shenzhen-based trader at Guosen Securities Co. "There's a strong belief that disappointing data and earnings will persuade the government to do more to safeguard the economy."
PetroChina joined Cnooc Ltd., China's biggest offshore oil and gas explorer, to report an earnings decline as Brent, the benchmark for half of the world's crude trading, tumbled 42 per cent in the past ten months.
PetroChina's profit was the lowest going back to the third quarter of 2007, which is as far as financial data for the company on the Bloomberg goes.
China may cut the number of centrally administered SOEs to 40 from the current 112 through mergers and restructuring, the Economic Information Daily reported Monday. China's state-asset regulator later denied giving the interview. PetroChina's parent China National Petroleum Corp. and China Petroleum & Chemical, known as Sinopec, said in separate statements that they haven't heard from government or talked with each other.
The Shanghai gauge has rallied 88 per cent in the past six months, the most among benchmark indexes globally, on speculation of further monetary stimulus to bolster the economy, a record surge in margin trading and prospects for reform of state-owned enterprises. The outstanding balance of margin debt in Shanghai climbed to an all-time high of 1.2 trillion yuan (S$256.5 billion) on Monday.
Investor sentiment is too bullish and a healthy correction is needed to feel more comfortable about buying A shares, said Grace Tam, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management in Hong Kong.