Hong Kong shares could post a third straight gain on Thursday, tracking Wall Street's strength and reacting to data showing China's new loan and money supply growth in March were faster than expected.
New yuan loans totalled 1.06 trillion yuan in March, surpassing a Reuters 850 billion yuan poll consensus, while M2 money supply grew 15.7 percent in March from a year ago, compared to expectations for 14.6 percent growth. Total social financing totalled 2.5 trillion yuan in March.
China's government extended a pilot value-added tax reform programme nationwide on Wednesday that would help cut taxes by 120 billion yuan ($19 billion) in 2013.
More Chinese economic data is coming. First quarter GDP growth data is due April 15, along with industrial output, retail sales and urban investment data for March.
On Wednesday, the Hang Seng Index closed up 0.8 percent at 22,034.6 on Wednesday. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong also gained 0.8 percent.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei was up 1.1 percent, while South Korea's KOSPI was up 0.2 percent at 0055 GMT.
FACTORS TO WATCH:
* Telecom Italia SpA Chairman Franco Bernabe is likely to win a green light from the board to deepen talks with Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa said to be targeting 29.9 percent of the Italian group, sources familiar with the situation said.
* KFC parent Yum Brands Inc warned that a new bird flu outbreak in China badly hit restaurant sales there this month, even as the company also reported a sharper-than-expected slide in March sales in the country caused by the lingering impact of a separate food safety scare.
* China Eastern Airlines Corporation Ltd said China regulator CSRC has approved its plan to issue up to 698.87 million new A shares in the mainland.
* Malaysian property firm LBS Bina Group Bhd is selling two of its Hong Kong units, involved in property and golf course developments, to Zhuhai Holdings Investment Group Ltd for 657.69 million Malaysian ringgit ($216.59 million).
* Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Ltd (Hactl) said on Wednesday its cargo traffic rose 1.6 percent in the first quarter from the same period a year ago and forecasts a slow economic recovery. Hactl's shareholders include Jardine Matheson & Co Ltd, Hutchison Whampoa Ltd's unit Hutchison Port Holdings Ltd, Wharf (Holdings) Ltd and China National Aviation Corporation (Group) Ltd.
* Chinese department store operator Maoye International Holdings Ltd said it recorded an increase in total sales proceeds from concessionaire sales of 6.7 percent, of which the same-store growth was 5.3 percent for the three months ended in March as compared to the same period a year ago.
* Chinese property developer Agile Property Holdings Ltd said it recorded contracted sales of 3.23 billion yuan for March with contracted gross floor area sold of 267,000 square metres and average contracted selling price of 12,103 yuan per square metre.