25 March 2019, Monday  |  
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Market Commentary - Foreign Markets  
Hong Kong Stocks flat after weak China data
(12:55, 10 Jan 2019)
Headline shares of the Hong Kong financial market were virtually flat after fluctuating in and out of boundary line on Thursday, 10 January 2019, as optimism over the recently concluded U.S.-China trade talks were offset by a disappointing Chinese inflation report. In late afternoon trades, the Hang Seng Index fell 5.82 points or 0.02% to 26,456.50. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index added 7.27 points or 0.07% to 10,365.48.

The meetings this week which are the first ever face-to-face talks since U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day truce have rejuvenated risk appetite, easing fears of an all-out trade war and its possible impact on global growth. Earlier, U.S. and Chinese officials said progress had been made during the three days of talks in Beijing. While major hurdles remain, the talks appeared to clear a path for higher-level negotiations that could further ease trade tensions before President Donald Trump's March deadline, when he said he will raise tariffs on more than $200 billion in Chinese-made good from 10% to 25%.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said in a statement on Thursday morning that the two sides had broad, in-depth and detailed exchanges on trade and structural issues of shared concern. The talks have strengthened mutual understanding and laid the foundation for addressing both sides' concerns, adding that the two countries also agreed to keep close contact. The MOFCOM's brief statement followed one from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), which also listed several issues discussed at the trade talks, the first face-to-face meeting after the leaders of the two countries reached a truce in December. The USTR said in its statement that the trade talks discussed ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity and balance in trade relations and the need for any agreement to have a verification process. The discussions also focused on China's pledge to buy a substantial amount of agricultural, energy and other products from the US, it said.The delegation will now report back to receive guidance on the next steps, the USTR said, echoing China's statement on keeping close contact. The MOFCOM's statement was more concise and did not mention specific topics compared to the USTR one, which listed specific topics, most of which have been the country's long-held grievances against China.

Figures out of China on Thursday showed the country's consumer prices and factory-gate inflation both rose less than expected in December, with the latter rising at the slowest pace in over two years. Factory-gate inflation turned negative for the second straight month.

The cost of producing goods in China's factories slowed sharply in December, a sign demand remains weak as the US trade war drags on, while consumer inflation also flagged, official data showed Thursday. The producer price index (PPI) -- an important barometer of the industrial sector that measures the cost of goods at the factory gate -- rose 0.9% on-year in December, compared with a 2.7% rise the previous month. The reading marks the lowest growth since September 2016, and fell short of market expectation. A slowdown in factory gate inflation reflects sluggish demand, while a turn to deflation could dent corporate profits. The consumer price index (CPI) -- a key measure of retail inflation -- rose 1.9%, compared with 2.2% in November. Rapidly falling inflation, especially factory-gate PPI inflation, is further evidence that China's economy is slowing at a worrying pace. Slumping PPI inflation suggests corporate earnings will almost surely continue to fall in coming months. The weak figures come as China's trade war with the US starts to bite and economic growth slows, with data last week showing manufacturing sector contracted in December for the first time in more than two years.

Minutes from the Fed's December meeting showed that many policymakers believed they could be patient about future monetary tightening, while a few did not support the central bank's rate increase last month. Besides the dovish slant from the Fed minutes, a clutch of officials said on Wednesday they will wait to deliver more interest rate hikes so the central bank can further assess growing risks to an otherwise solid U.S. economic outlook.

Carmakers shares inclined after China vows to boost spending on autos as car sales fall for the first time in 27 years. Brilliance China rallied 6.8 per cent to HK$6.6, Minth Group gained 3 per cent to HK$26.10, and Geely Auto was up 2.9 per cent to HK$11.40.

Shares of pharmaceutical players were also higher. Sino Biopharmaceutical (01177) surged 8.3% to HK$5.5 after it said its linezolid and glucose injection has obtained approval for drug registration. CSPC Pharmaceutical (01093) soared 9% to HK$12.38 after UBS Research said it has recently met with management and learned that its 2019 net profit growth guidance is 20-30%.

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