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Hong Kong shares sink to 4-week low, China sluggish

Clement Tan
Wednesday, 11 Dec 2013 | 11:43 PM ET

* HSI -0.5 pct, H-shares -0.9 pct, CSI300 flat

* Spike in November social financing raises tightening concerns

* China banks slide, profit-taking saps non-banking financials

* Cinda Asset Management soars in Hong Kong debut

HONG KONG, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares sank to their lowest in almost four weeks on Thursday, with mainland markets also sluggish, on worries over China's 2014 growth target and continuing speculation the U.S. Federal Reserve is poised to start paring its asset purchases.

Data released after markets shut on Wednesday showed China's total social financing aggregate, a broad measure of liquidity, spiked sharply in November from the month before, raising concerns the Chinese central bank might tighten monetary policy after having likely met its 2013 economic growth target of 7.5 percent.

At midday, the CSI300 of the leading Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings was flat, while the Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.1 percent. Both onshore indexes bounced off lows set on Wednesday and have held onto gains from a Nov. 13 trough better than offshore markets have.

The Hang Seng Index was down 0.5 percent at 23,216.1 points, while the China Enterprises Index of the top offshore Chinese listings in Hong Kong nearly 1 percent. Both are now at their lowest since Nov. 15, and have retraced more than 50 percent of the rally from Nov. 13 lows.

There has been market speculation of a disagreement among China's leaders at an ongoing Beijing meeting on 2014 growth targets, and concern the figure could be set below the 2013 one.

But Shanghai volumes stayed relatively lacklustre, suggesting no panic among investors.

"Yes, there has been talk about China's growth target, but you can't be too sensitive to that and turn all bearish or be too driven by short-term price movements because the longer term sentiment on China has now improved," said Alex Wong, Ample Finance's director of asset management.

On Thursday, the Chinese financial and property sectors were the leading index drags. Agricultural Bank of China (AgBank) fell 0.8 percent in Hong Kong and 1.2 percent in Shanghai.

Investors also trimmed recent gains in brokers and insurers. Both sectors had outperformed since Beijing unveiled detailed reform measures on Nov. 15.

China's second-largest insurer, Ping An Insurance , sank more than 1 percent in both Hong Kong and Shanghai, leaving the shares at their lowest since late November.

China Cinda Asset Management bucked the trend for finance stocks, soaring as much as 34 percent as the bad-debts manager made a robust listing debut in Hong Kong after raising $2.5 billion.

Investors chased gains in the Macau casino sector, standout outperformers in Hong Kong this year compared with the moribund broader market. Shares of Galaxy Entertainment climbed 2.1 percent to a record high, up more than 113 percent this year, versus a 0.5 percent loss on the Hang Seng Index.

The Nasdaq-style ChiNext Composite Index rose 2.3 percent after the official China Securities Journal reported on Thursday Beijing is mulling plans to greater subject refinancing for these mostly technology start-ups listed in Shenzhen to market forces, citing industry insiders.

The Nasdaq-style ChiNext Composite Index rose 2.3 percent after the official China Securities Journal reported on Thursday that Beijing is mulling plans to liberalise refinancing rules for the mostly technology start-ups listed in Shenzhen.