HK shares end higher on China policy boost, trade talk hopes

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* HSI +0.6 pct, HSCE +0.5 pct; big earnings week looms

* China’s premier vows strong measures to boost growth

* Sino-U.S. talks seen substantial progress – Xinhua

HONG KONG, March 15 (Reuters) – The Hong Kong market closed higher on Friday, after China pledged to prop up slowing economic growth and appeared to make progress in its trade talks with the United States. ** At the close of trade, the Hang Seng index was up 0.6 percent at 29,012.26 points, while the Hang Seng China Enterprises index rose 0.5 percent. The Hang Seng gained 2.8 percent this week, while H-shares were up 3.1 percent week-on-week. ** The sub-index of the Hang Seng tracking energy shares rose 1.5 percent, while the IT sector gained 1.1 percent, the financial sector ended 0.3 percent higher and the property sector rose 0.4 percent. ** China will not let economic growth slip out of a reasonable range amid downward pressure on its economy, Li said on Friday at a press conference marking the end of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress. ** The Chinese premier pledged strong measures to support growth, saying that the government could use tools such as reserve requirements and interest rates. ** Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke by telephone with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, making further substantive progress on trade talks, Xinhua news agency said on Friday. ** A U.S.-China summit to seal a trade deal between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping will not happen at the end of March because more work is needed in U.S.-China negotiations, Mnuchin said on Thursday. But he noted that the two sides are trying to reach a deal “as quickly as possible.” ** A group of Hong Kong-listed companies, including market leaders Tencent Holdings Ltd, CK Hutchison Holdings and China Mobile Ltd, are reporting their full year 2018 earnings next week. ** The top gainer on the Hang Seng was Sunny Optical Technology Group Co Ltd, which gained 5.1 percent, while the biggest loser was Shenzhou International Group Holdings Ltd , which fell 1.4 percent. ** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 0.6 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei index closed up 0.8 percent. ** About 2.04 billion Hang Seng index shares were traded. The volume traded in the previous trading session was 1.43 billion. ** At close, China’s A-shares were trading at a premium of 22.58 percent over the Hong Kong-listed H-shares. (Reporting by Noah Sin; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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