Hong Kong stocks close down

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Hong Kong - Hong Kong stocks finished 0.91 percent lower Thursday, tracking losses in other major Asian markets and after a fall on Wall Street following the release of Federal Reserve meeting minutes.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index fell 209.26 points to 22,787.33 on turnover of HK$72.33 billion ($9.33 billion).

In New York Wednesday, the Dow slipped and the S&P 500 ended flat after minutes from the Fed's December 17-18 policy meeting showed that central bank policymakers expect unemployment to continue falling even without the support of its vast bond-buying programme.

The meeting concluded with the bank reducing its stimulus - which has been in place since September 2012 - by $10 billion to $75 billion in January.

The Dow slipped 0.41 percent, the S&P 500 was flat and the Nasdaq rose 0.30 percent.

As well as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai also fell Thursday.

On the Hang Seng Index, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China

fell 2.0 percent to HK$4.94, China Construction Bank slid 1.77

percent to HK$5.54 while Tencent was down 1.69 percent at HK$493.

Chinese shares closed down 0.82 percent as official data showed that China's annual inflation was 2.6 percent in 2013.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index shed 16.72 points to 2,027.62 on turnover of 67.6 billion yuan ($11.2 billion).

The inflation figure was below the 3.5 percent target set by the government and analysts broadly welcomed the statistics, saying they pointed to a stable outlook for prices and a reduced chance of monetary tightening.

For December, inflation rose 2.5 percent year-on-year, slowing from 3.0 percent in November.

“Investors need time to digest the data, but benign inflation is good news in the long run, since it raises hopes for less tight monetary policies from the government,” Zheshang Securities analyst Zhang Yanbing told AFP.

A flood of initial public offerings has weighed heavily on market sentiment in recent days, after the securities regulator allowed new share offers to resume following a year-long freeze, analysts said.

Aviation firms led the declines.

Jiangxi Hongdu Aviation Industry fell 4.79 percent to 17.90 yuan, China Avic Electronics lost 4.37 percent to 22.98 yuan and Shaanxi Aerospace Power Hi-Tech dropped 4.20 percent to 13.70 yuan.

Ship makers also fell. CSSC Jiangnan Heavy Industry sank 5.16 percent to 10.84 yuan, China CSSC Holdings lost 3.85 percent to 22.00 yuan and Guangzhou Shipyard International slid 3.48 percent to 16.94 yuan. - Sapa-AFP

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