Hong Kong shares advanced on Friday in their best week in 2-1/2 months, buoyed by a resurgent mainland Chinese market that ended near highs for the week as investors cheered pro-reform remarks made by top officials.
The Hang Seng Index rose 0.8 percent to 21,914 points, its highest close since November 7. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong was 1.1 percent higher. Both rose 3.6 percent this week.
In the mainland, the CSI300 Index of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings climbed 0.7 percent on the day and 0.7 percent on the week. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.6 percent on Friday and 0.6 percent this week.
“Comments from the Vice-Premier have definitely bolstered sentiment today, reassuring investors that the incoming top leaders are committed to moving towards reform as the country moves into a new phase of economic development,” said Chen Yi, a Shanghai-based analyst with Xiangcai Securities.
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang stressed the role of reform in China's social and economic development, calling for pioneering measures and a bigger role for the market, according to comments carried in the state-run China Securities Journal on Friday.
This came a day after the country's finance minister was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying that property taxes will be gradually introduced and be part of a broader reform of China's fiscal policy.
The comments helped boost sentiment, with the Chinese property stocks in Hong Kong posting strong gains for a third straight session.
Evergrande jumped 5.5 percent, recovering from Thursday's losses triggered by a newspaper reported that it had cut prices by 15 percent to meet its annual sales target.
Longfor Properties, another Chinese property name which bucked sector strength earlier this week, recovered from losses over fears of a change of management. Shares rose 4.2 percent.
Two Hong Kong-based dealers also said there was market talk of a Chinese reserve rate cut over the weekend, which first started circulating on Wednesday, despite mainland money markets indicating little need for such a move.
China's key 7-day money rate fell to its lowest level in over a month, shrugging off the central bank's slight drain of funds through open market operations, as traders said fiscal deposits entering the system were pumping in significant liquidity.
SAIC Motor jumped 3 percent to its highest since November 12 in Shanghai after local media reported one of its joint venture partner,Volkswagen , plans to speed up its expansion in China.
The positive end to the week for mainland markets, where benchmark indexes are set for a third-straight annual loss, buoyed A-share proxy plays such as Chinese insurers, as investors chased the week's laggards.
Insurers are seen proxys because of their large investments in mainland stock markets, where the Shanghai Composite Index and CSI300 are still down 7.8 and 6.5 percent, respectively. The Hang Seng Index and China Enterprises Index, by contrast, are up 18.9 and 6.7 percent.
On Friday, China Life Insurance was up 1.6 percent in Hong Kong and 2.5 percent in Shanghai. Its smaller rival, Ping An jumped 1 percent in Hong Kong and 1.7 percent in Shanghai.
LIQUOR MAKERS TRIM WEEKLY LOSSES
This week's gains were the first in three weeks for stock indexes in both China and Hong Kong. But gains came in weak volume.
The Hang Seng Index posted its best week since it jumped 4.2 percent in the week of September 10-14, but gains this week came in just more than half of the turnover than in that September week.
In Shanghai, this week's volume was the weakest since the June 16-20 week, with most of it concentrated on the selloff involving booze makers after Jiugui Liquor was implicated in press reports that it had excessive amounts of potentially toxic substances in its products.
Jiugui's Shenzhen shares, suspended since Monday, slumped the maximum 10 percent on the resumption of trade on Friday. The company apologised in an exchange filing late on Thursday, promising to resolve the issue, according to state news agency Xinhua, after official tests substantiated earlier allegations.
But others recovered some ground.
Kweichow Moutai rose 2.3 percent, trimming weekly losses to 1 percent. Up as much as 28 percent on the year before November, it is now up 15 percent in 2012.
Wuliangye rose 0.9 percent, rebounding off its lowest level in more than two years recorded on Thursday to snap a six-day losing streak. Wuliangye slumped 10.4 percent this week, its worst weekly showing in nearly four years. - Reuters