Hong Kong Shares May Start Higher, But On Track For Weekly Loss

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Hong Kong shares may start higher on Friday after Europe's two biggest central banks surprised investors with their willingness to maintain stimulus, but any gains on the day are unlikely to prevent a loss for the week.

Photo of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Chairman Arculli and CEO Li hitting gong on first trading day after Lunar New Year holidays at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange

Hong Kong shares may start higher on Friday after Europe's two biggest central banks surprised investors with their willingness to maintain stimulus, but any gains on the day are unlikely to prevent a loss for the week.

Casino operator Macau Legend Development Ltd debuts on the Hong Kong stock exchange after slashing its initial public offering by more than half to $283 million and pricing the deal near the bottom of expectations.

On Thursday, the Hang Seng Index rose 1.6 percent to 20,468.7, while the China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong climbed 1.4 percent. On the week, they are now down 1.6 and 3.1 percent, respectively.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei was up 1.4 percent, while South Korea's KOSPI was up 0.4 percent at 0032 GMT.

Breaking away from its tradition never to precommit on policy, the European Central Bank declared it would keep interest rates at record lows for an extended period and may even cut further. The Bank of England also cautioned investors they were being too quick to bet on higher UK rates.

FACTORS TO WATCH:

* China Rongsheng Heavy Industries Group, China's largest private shipbuilder, said on Friday it had sought financial help from the Chinese government and big shareholders after laying off some workers and delaying payments to suppliers.

* Telecom Italia SpA has ended contacts with Hutchison Whampoa Ltd on merging their Italian mobile businesses, preferring to focus on a plan to spin off its fixed-line network.

* The Montenegrin government has selected state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) to build a section of a key road linking it with neighbouring Serbia, the country's transport minister said on Thursday.

* China, the world's second largest consumer of corn, will hike its purchase price for the grain for state reserves this year to help farmers, a move analysts said will spur cheap imports.

* China is expanding a trial that allows local governments to sell bonds directly to investors to two more provinces, Jiangsu and Shandong, the Finance Ministry said, increasing the number of governments involved in the pilot to six.

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