Hong Kong - Hong Kong stocks closed down 1.18 percent on Wednesday on profit-taking after recent strong gains, but shares in Standard Chartered bucked the trend and rose sharply after the bank settled its US case.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index fell 239.39 points to end at 20,052.29 on turnover of HK$42.34 billion ($5.46 billion), down from HK$56.13 billion on Tuesday.

Better-than-expected US retail sales figures for July and data showing that growth prospects in core eurozone countries might not be as bad as feared failed to lift the index.

There was disappointment among investors that the US data was not worse, which some thought may have heaped pressure on the US Federal Reserve to start a new round of stimulus aimed at kickstarting growth, analysts said.

But analysts predicted sentiment would stay positive in the near future amid high hopes of intervention from the Fed, European Central Bank and China to boost their economies.

“Talk that (China's central bank) will lower the reserve-requirement ratio at the end of this month is rampant,” Jackson Wong, an investment manager at Tanrich Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.

There have already been several cuts in recent months to the amount that banks are required to hold in reserve, in a bid to make more money available for lending.

London-based bank Standard Chartered ended 3.56 percent higher at HK$171.7 after it agreed to pay New York banking regulators $340 million to settle allegations it helped Iranian clients dodge US sanctions.

China Coal was the worst-performing blue chip, tumbling 3.7

percent to HK$7.23 after its coal sales fell 24 percent in July from a year earlier to 9.25 million tons.

Chinese shares closed down 1.10 percent as worries over the domestic economy persisted, dealers said. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index lost 23.58 points to 2,118.95 on turnover of 46.0

billion yuan ($7.2 billion).

China last week released economic data for July Ä including trade, industrial output and retail sales figures Ä which pointed to continued weakness in the domestic economy and raised hopes for monetary easing.

“The market lacks upward momentum as an earlier anticipated reserve requirement ratio cut did not materialise,” Zheshang Securities analyst Zhang Yanbing said.

“The current weak trend will likely continue,” he told AFP.

Banks fell after state media reported that the national social security fund last week reduced its holdings in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the country's biggest lender.

ICBC slid 0.78 percent to 3.80 yuan, Pudong Development Bank dropped 2.82 percent to 7.58 yuan and Citic Bank lost 2.27 percent to 3.87 yuan.

Coal firms were lower on weaker domestic prices. Shanxi Coal International Energy fell 2.32 percent to 21.86 yuan, while Datong Coal shed 2.19 percent to 9.85 yuan. - Sapa-AFP